Instead, we’ve become the world’s leader in just throwing people away because we don’t like them.
The Los Angeles Times has published a powerful opinion piece on this topic by Robert Smith, assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and G. Ben Cohen, an attorney with the Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans.
It is titled What Constitutes Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Here is an excerpt:
We live in a nation that incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation on Earth. We have emptied our public hospitals, mental health wards and drug treatment facilities, and filled up our prisons. We treat people who commit crimes with a brutality that would be incomprehensible if the people who suffered under the burden of this system were the loved ones of the people who make and enforce our laws.
This is a judicial failure. If a punishment wouldn’t be tolerated if applied regularly and evenly, then the power and responsibility to ensure that it is not imposed at all rests with the courts.