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48 Alarming Facts That Tell Us America Has Become a Gigantic Prison: Facts 23 to 36

Police State
In the third of a four part series on the Obama surveillance state, writer Ben Hart details 13 more of the 48 facts about how the U.S. government has moved from a level of individual level never before seen in world history to a security obsessed state where the police use militarized weapons and armed drones and the prosecution routinely overcharges defendants to terrorize them into pleading guilty to lesser charges -- even if they are innocent.

Prison USA

Less than 200 years ago, the great French writer Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to discover the reasons for America’s stunning success — unparalleled prosperity combined with a level of individual liberty never before seen world history.

Here was one feature of American life that got his attention:

In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States.”

This is no longer the situation:

FACT #23: The United States today has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

FACT #24: One out of every 100 adults in America is in prison today.

FACT #25: No country in the world has more prisoners per capita than the United States — not even Cuba. (Caveat: We don’t know what’s happening in North Korea)

FACT #26: America has 2.3 million citizens behind bars. China, which still calls itself a Communist country, has 1.6 million people in prison, even though China has four times the population of the United States.

FACT #27: America is the only advanced country to lock people up for crimes that other Western countries consider relatively minor, such as writing bad checks, smoking weed, driving with a suspended license,  or other non-violent crimes.

FACT #28: Especially harsh sentences have also become a hallmark of the U.S. criminal justice system. Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.

FACT #29: The United States is the only advanced Western country that still has the death penalty.

(SIDE NOTE: I have become an opponent of the death penalty because too many mistakes are being made and the death penalty is being used for crimes that don’t merit the death penalty. But that’s a topic for another article).

FACT #30: The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for especially sadistic serial killers, such as a John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy type of serial killer (who kill just because they enjoy killing). But prosecutors in America are increasingly seeking to use the death penalty for crimes that should have been prosecuted as second or third-degree murder. I.e. prosecutors actually sought the death penalty against Casey Anthony. This reckless mom probably killed her baby by accident and covered up the crime.  Casey Anthony was certainly no gem, but did not merit the death penalty.

FACT #31: Prosecutors in America today routinely engage in the practice of intentionally over-charging suspects in order to terrorize them into pleading guilty to a lesser charge (even if innocent) in order to save the trouble of going through a trial. The usual proposition goes something like this: “If you make us go to trial, you’ll risk spending the rest of your life in jail. But if you plead guilty to this lesser charge, you’ll spend three years in jail.”

FACT #32: Slipped into the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2005 was a little noticed provision that empowers law enforcement to collect and permanently retain DNA samples from anyone arrested or detained for any crime whether or not they are convicted, including if pulled over for routine routine traffic violations. The Supreme Court has ruled this is all okay. So watch soon for police to be collecting fingerprint and DNA samples from you when you are stopped for a broken tail light. It’s just a matter now of the police having the right equipment. But that should not take long. These fingerprint and DNA samples will then be stored forever in a national database.

FACT #33: This DNA database is likely (certain) to be expanded to include all Americans under the ObamaCare law as part of the drive to nationalize health care in America. This will be the ultimate invasion of medical privacy, once thought important in America.

FACT #34: The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878  forbids the use of military force against American citizens. But the police in America today have become increasingly militarized, equipped now with “shock and awe” military-style weapons. For example, modern armored police vehicles are equipped with a sound device that can stop rioters in their tracks. The FBI admits to using drones over America (a military weapon). In a 2010 the Department of Homeland Security announced that it plans to use armed drones inside America’s borders to “immobilize TOIs” (Targets of Interest).

FACT #35: In the 1960′s and 1970′s courts probably tipped too far in giving every advantage to criminals and hampering police. There is an avalanche of evidence that we have moved too far in the other direction, giving near unlimited power to the police. As a consequence, police have become increasingly free with using excessive force on average citizens who are doing little or nothing wrong. I list some examples here:

• In the summer of 2006, police shot 18 bullets into an 18-year-old girl named Ashley MacDonald — of course, killing her instantly. Her crime: carrying s small knife while running through an empty city park in Huntington Beach, California.

• A 15-man SWAT team smashed down a man’s door over unpaid student loans;

• Police shut down a girl’s lemonade stand (because she did not have a license);

• A cop admitted he plants drugs on innocent people to meet arrest quota. Says this is common practice.

• Cops beat man into a coma for riding a bicycle without a light

• Four cops beat a teenager to a pulp for skateboarding on the wrong side of the street.

• Here we see a cop in Baltimore cop beating up a 14-year-old skateboarder for asking the cop what he did wrong.

• Here we see police using a taser against a student at the University of Florida for asking Senator John Kerry if he was a member of a secret society at Yale called Skull & Bones.

• Here we see a Utah cop tasering a vacationing man in front of his pregnant wife — because the man wanted to know why he was being ticketed.

• Here we see police arresting a citizen for videotaping their activities. They then shoot and kill his dog for barking at them.

FACT #36: Videotaping police in action is now illegal in many jurisdictions. But, of course, government is free to videotape us. In Illinois, police and prosecutors charged Michael Allison with five felonies for videotaping police actions from his own front yard. They accused him of violating Illinois’ eavesdropping law — a crime that carries the same penalty as rape in Illinois. Allison faces up to 75 years in prison. The case was dismissed in the first round of court action, but prosecutors have appealed the dismissal.

Part 1: The Alarming Facts That Tell Us America Has Become a Gigantic Prison

Part 2: 48 Alarming Facts That Tell Us America Has Become a Gigantic Prison: Facts 12 to 22

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Not all of these are valid

The first couple dozen of observations in this series were good, but #23 to #30 are not entirely valid. #29 & 30 are the easiest to dispense with. The author opposes the death penalty. So what. The existence of the death penalty proves nothing. We had it when America was still a free country. As for the crimes, the author takes a much more benign view of Casey Anthony than I do. If she did what the prosecution alleged (and I think she deliberately killed her daughter, though I recognize it was not proven), then I think she did deserve the death penalty. That the Eurowusses have dropped the death penalty proves nothing.

Similarly for #28. Europe has ridiculously light sentences for even very serious crimes. Commit multiple murders? You'll be out in 12-20 years at most. If we have longer sentences, that doesn't make us wrong. Maybe they're wrong. They're wrong about economics, why not crime? Same goes for #27. If anything, white collar crimes are underpunished. I agree there should be more consistency in sentencing and in matching crimes and punishments. Some should be increased, others reduced.

#23-#25 I'm always suspicious of these statistical comparisons since countries may have different reporting systems. In many countries, incarceration rates are low because criminals are allowed out and crime rates are high. Compare U.S. and Mexican crime rates and incarceration rates. Maybe some of those countries should imprison criminals more readily and for longer periods.

As for #26, all of China is essentially a prison. Same for North Korea.

I'm not defending what the government does overall and some things shouldn't be crimes, but there are criminals and keeping them locked up is the only effective way to stop them from committing crimes.