By Eve Pell | truthdig | Posted on Apr 24, 2009
When I was involved in prison reform in the early 1970s, my colleagues and I were shocked that our state, California, held so many prisoners, 22,000. Now, 35 years later, California’s prison population has ballooned to 165,000. Since 1973, the U.S. imprisonment rate has multiplied more than five times; we hold the dubious distinction of being the most imprisoning nation in the world.
Why does our nation, with 5 percent of the world’s people, have 25 percent of its prisoners, about 2 million? Why do we keep at least 25,000, maybe double that, in long-term isolation, a situation known to cause insanity, when other nations have more effective and humane methods of managing violence? Why do we inflict intense physical pain, sometimes to the point of death, with tasers, stun belts and restraint chairs at a time when violent crime is not on the increase?