American’s Over-Criminalization

Glenn GreenwaldBut there’s a reason the US has become a sprawling, oppressive penal state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any other nation in the world, both in raw numbers and proportionally. There are actually many reasons: the profit motive from privatized prisons, the bipartisan nature of the “tough-on-crime” agenda, the evils of the Drug War, mandatory minimum sentences, the disproportionate use of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment against minorities.

But one key factor is over-criminalization: converting relatively trivial and harmless acts into major felonies. The postal worker who just engaged in an act of nonviolent political protest — flying a gyrocopter to the US Capitol lawn to protest the corrupting role of money in US politics — faces up to nine years in prison on multiple felony charges. That is over-criminalization, as are the shamefully large number of people in prison for selling prohibited narcotics to consenting adults who wanted them, or even for just possessing them.

—Glenn Greenwald
Denny Hastert is Contemptible, But His Indictment Exemplifies America’s Over-Criminalization Pathology

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