Lock him up and throw away the key?
Tie him down and inject a lethal mix of drugs into his system?
Are these are the only options?
With the case of Zacarias Moussaoui so much in the public mind it might be a good moment to step back from the particular details of this individual case to examine the current state of the American system of Justice and some of the assumptions underpinning its operation.
But first it is important to get an overview of the current jail population so that we can examine whether the current judicial Â practices are 'without fear or favor'.
With a current jail population of over 2.1 million people (June 2004) America is simply awash with prisoners and the ranks are swelling at a rate of 900 new inmates per week.
On December 31, 2004, 2,135,901 prisoners were held in Federal, State, or local jails, an increase of 2.6% from year end 2003
"Well that's not too bad," I can hear you saying to yourself. But how does America compare to other first world countries?
America Â = 483 prisoners per 100 000
Australia = 153 prisoners per 100 000 (has doubled in the last ten years)
England Â = 124 prisoners per 100 000
Australian Bureau of Statistics.
"Blacks (mostly poor and disadvantaged) especially are affected. While they make up just 12.3% of the population, they account for half the prison population, and their numbers there have grown fivefold in the last 25 years. Hispanics (also poor) account for another 15%."Â The US Gulag Prison System.
But don't take a crazy leftie's word for it.
According to American Bureau of Justice Statistics, in America, at year end 2004, there were:
3,218 black males sentenced per 100,000 black males (in the wider population.)
1,220 Hispanics per 100,000 Hispanic males
463 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.
Keeping in mind the relative size of the African American Â population Â (12.3%) current statistics relating to the imposition of the death penalty in America is also enlightening.
In 2005, 60 persons in 16 States were executed -- 19 in Texas; 5 each in Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina; 4 each in Ohio, Alabama, and Oklahoma; 3 each in Georgia, and South Carolina; 2 in California; and 1 each in Connecticut, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, and Mississippi.
Of persons executed in 2005: -- 41 were white -- 19 were black
Fifty-nine men and one woman were executed in 2005. Â Â Lethal injection accounted for all of the executions.
American Bureau of Justice Statistics
In other words â€“ whilst the African American population makes up only 12.3% of the population, nearly one in three of those executed in 2005 were black.
This disparity is even more striking when we look at statistics relating to all those currently under sentence of death.
At year end 2004, 36 States and the Federal prison system held 3,314 prisoners under sentence of death.
Of persons under sentence of death in 2004:
1,850 were white
1,390 were black
28 were American Indian
32 were Asian
14 were of unknown race.
I'll do the sums for you. The African American population makes up 12.3% of the population and yet account for just under 42% of those currently under sentence of death.
Whose Justice and to what Ends?
An analysis of the statistics presented above demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that a black American is seven times more likely to be sentenced to a period in jail than is a white American, and that they are fifteen times more likely to be sentenced to death.
Are black Americans seven times more criminal than white Americans?
If not â€“why the disparity?
It is patently obvious that the current sentencing practices in the courts of America reflect a failed doctrine.
'Locking them up and throwing away the key' just doesn't work.
Are Americans four times more prone to criminal acts than are the English? Of course they aren't. It is just that American courts are four times more likely to send someone to jail than are the English courts. And to what end?
Are English cities four times more dangerous than are American cities due to the massive numbers of miscreants not being sent to jail? I would contend that the opposite is true.
So, if the huge numbers of Americans being sent to jail doesn't make America a safer place â€“ then why are all of these people being jailed?
These are big questions that I believe should be at the forefront of the social discourse in America. Your Justice system is patently unjust. Some of the most glaring problems that must be urgently re-considered include:
- the American practice of electing their judiciary (which leads to an endless 'law 'n order' auction being replayed at each election)
- the war on drugs (which was lost before it was commenced - see here)
- the lack of a social security safety net (which is provided in every other first world country - see here}
- a lack of any meaningful health care system (more than twice the population of Australia live without any cover at all)
- the disenfranchisement of prisoners (which means that as many as one in three blacks in many parts of America will lose their right to vote at some stage in their life)
These are the views of an outsider looking in. I'd like to hear what those inside the fishbowl think about these matters