The racial divide that exists in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, and the effect it has on the lived experience of white and black people, reminded us of a conversation from last week’s show in which poet Maya Angelou remembers how, as a little girl, she hated going to the white neighborhood in her hometown of Stamps, Arkansas, because she felt unsafe and unprotected there.
Robert Ferguson is a distinguished professor of law at Columbia University, with a deep interest in literature and in American culture. (He has a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization.) He has written an eloquent and learned book about the American criminal justice system today, with emphasis on imprisonment. He argues that prison sentences are too long and that prison conditions are abominable. And that is just the beginning.
Statistics confirm that a much higher fraction of Americans are prison inmates than was the case historically or is the case now in other civilized countries. As Ferguson notes, the per capita imprisonment rate is seven times greater in the United States than in Europe. Our inmates also are inmates for a longer period, because American prison sentences are longer than they used to be and longer than the sentences meted out in those other countries, although it is misleading to say as Ferguson does that “the United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world.” The United States is the third-most populous country in the world, and many countries do not publish accurate prison statistics (does anyone know the size of China’s prison population?). Many countries are unable or unwilling to punish most criminals, and in some countries crime is dealt with largely by extra-legal killing of criminals. Continue reading Book Review: Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment by Robert Ferguson→
The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an investigation into worker safety at distribution centers for online shopping giant Amazon following the second fatal accident at company facilities within the past six months, Bloomberg News reported. The…