New U.S. prisons chief pledges truth, reform for ailing system
By Bob Greene
10 January 2019
The United States is once again in the throes of a mass incarceration crisis. The Obama administration’s War on Drugs and prison construction during the last decade alone have brought some 3.2 million people locked up behind bars. This past week, the US Department of Justice released figures detailing the staggering annual increase in incarcerated people in America’s system of prisons and jails.
The Department of Justice reported that the population of people locked up behind bars increased by more than 9 percent in 2018. This increase amounts to another 2.7 million people imprisoned—more people than the nation’s total population at the time of the 2007 Census. The total population of the United States, including people in prison or jail, is now nearly 44 million.
The Department of Justice reports that the rate of incarceration of black people has skyrocketed from 38 percent to 43 percent over the past 10 years. The number of blacks in the United States arrested for crimes has increased by more than 900,000 since 2008, including more than 220,000 people charged with murder.
The numbers paint an almost unimaginably devastating picture of prison growth and mass incarceration, one that has not changed and will not change either. It is a situation in which a growing number of Americans are locked up, often behind bars for decades, for crimes they did not commit, including drug-related offenses and violent offenses.
The Department of Justice has long been aware of this catastrophe. But its policies, both in the criminal justice system and in the federal prison system, have been unable to stem the tide of criminalization and incarceration.
In 2015, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed a series of prison reforms that it hoped would provide a path to reducing mass incarceration in America. All of the reforms were condemned by major US social-democratic groups, from the American Civil Rights Union to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Now, the Trump administration is attempting to turn the