Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 22, 2014

Obama's attorney general Americanized

Attorney General Eric Holder, long dutifully obedient to his boss’s vandalizing of the Constitution, now emerges as a vital opponent of one of the most damaging abuses in our history of the American definition of justice.

Quoted in “Breaking our prison habit” in the Feb. 13 New York Daily News by the invaluably probing news analyst Errol Lewis, Eric Holder declares: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”

How many Americans are what Errol Lewis adds to Eric Holder’s judgment of our overflowing cages:

“The number of inmates in federal prisons has soared by a staggering 800 percent since 1980, and federal lockouts are now 40 percent overcapacity ...

“Individual states are groaning under the burden as well. Nebraska’s prisons are at 140 percent of capacity. Oklahoma’s have exceeded 99 percent of capacity.

Adds Errol Lewis: “The failed war on drugs has also swelled the prison population. Addicts caught with small amounts of the illegal poison they ingest — 30 grams of cocaine, for example, the equivalent of 30 restaurant sugar packets — can be labeled ‘traffickers’ and tossed into prison for years.”

And in “America on Probation,” (New York Times, Jan. 27), Bill Keller, the New York Times columnist and former executive editor, made this key accusatory point: “The quest for safe and humane alternatives to lockup faces opposition from prosecutors protecting their leverage, from corrections employee unions protecting jobs and from a private prison industry protecting profits.

“(Private prison operators, who house about 9 percent of prison inmates, have a vested interest in keeping prisons full because they are paid based on occupancy).”

And now comes Eric Holder, not only protesting our epidemic of prisons but also trying to do something about keeping Americans released from prisons from going back after they become free citizens again.

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