America’s Gulag

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The Bush/Obama years have brought all Americans closer to the tyrannies, the spy and search environment, and the police state experiences of citizens of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. These years have brought some — far too many — Americans directly into police state experiences.

The legal and judicial groundwork of national tyranny has been laid. This continues, with the Bill of Rights constantly pressured and diminished. Always we are told that the president has ever more extensive inherent power under the Constitution. The presence of endless foreign wars assists the government in extending power domestically, under the cry of “terror”.

America’s gulag is its prison system, filled up by the War on Drugs. This major domestic tyranny hits black and Hispanic males disproportionately. About 7 percent of black men between the ages of 25 and 39 are in prison.

The crime rate of black people has been higher than whites, roughly 2 to 3 times higher as measured by commitments to prison, ever since data began being collected, at least from 1904. In 1930, for example, in the 21-24 age group, 647 black males per 100,000 were committed for serious offenses as compared with 284 per 100,000 for native-born whites. (Data from a 2009 article in the journal Demography.) The commitment rates today are roughly 5 times higher for black males than in 1930 (about 3,000 per 100,000 population) and about 2 times higher for white males (about 500 per 100,000) than in 1930. (Latter data from here.)

No matter what the causes of the higher imprisonment rates of black males are, my point is that they are now 5 times high than in 1930, and the rate relative to the also higher white male number has also jumped. The War on Drugs has to be one major reason, no matter how complex are the causes, which remain very controversial, of the various other differences between the white and black populations.

7:51 am on August 23, 2013
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