America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, outstripping even Russia, Cuba, Rwanda, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Though America is home to only about one-twentieth of the world’s population, we house almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Since the mid 1970s, American prison populations have boomed, multiplying sevenfold while the population has increased by only 50 percent. Why?
Liberals blame racism and the “War on Drugs,” in particular long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. This past July, in a speech to the NAACP, President Obama insisted that “the real reason our prison population is so high” is that “over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before.” The War on Drugs, he suggested, is just a continuation of America’s “long history of inequity in the criminal-justice system,” which has disproportionately harmed minorities.
Two days later, Obama became the first sitting president to visit a prison. Speaking immediately after his visit, the president blamed mandatory drug sentencing as a “primary driver of this mass-incarceration phenomenon.”