People living in America make up 5 percent of the planet’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
Even if those prisoners are guilty, many are questioning whether they all should be behind bars. A surprising coalition is now saying definitely not.
Liberals and conservatives are banding together, agreeing that many people who shouldn’t be behind bars are being imprisoned at a high cost to society.
They say it’s time to rein in those costs.
Princeton professor and anti-poverty advocate Cornel West suggested that only about 30 percent of America’s prisoners are considered dangerous enough to be a threat to society.
“Of 2.5 million people in prison, 62 percent of them are there for soft, non-offensive, drug convictions,” West told CBN News.
That belief combined with a price tag close to $300 billion to capture, convict, and jail those prisoners has people from both the left and right questioning if there’s a better, smarter way.
West and his long-time friend PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley want to reform a system they believe sweeps far too many poor people and people of color behind bars, while doing little to educate them.
African-Americans are now five times more likely to end up in prison than South African blacks were at the height of apartheid.
“It’s warped priorities: prisons over education,” West stated.
“We have to do something about these persons who need help as opposed to being locked up,” Smiley said. “That’s where it has to start.”
Groups from across the political spectrum, like the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, Prison Fellowship, and the liberal NAACP and ACLU, are acting together to push for radically changing who America imprisons.