The United States imprisoning almost twenty-five percent of all people imprisoned in the world, even though we only have 5% of the world’s population,
Mass incarceration is a direct result of changes in policy governing law enforcement and the judicial system such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimums for sentencing. It is also driven by the privatization of prisons. Prison corporations sign contracts with governments that guarantee a certain level of occupancy creating an obligation by the state to incarcerate people.
In the US, police brazenly kill on average more than 1,000 people per year or about three people per day. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Latino men’s risk of being killed by police is about 40 percent higher than the risk faced by white men. Men are 10 times more likely to be killed by police than women. Racial inequality in risk extends across gender.
Many people in heavily-policed communities do not feel safer when they see police in their neighborhoods. Too many feel like the police are an occupying force that gets away with murder. The violence of police leading to the death of civilians has become more widely known and understood as people developed the ability to report them through social media.
Drug use has been treated as a police issue for many decades, resulting in mass arrests and mass incarceration with a racially disproportionate impact on black and brown communities. Police are not equipped to solve the health and social problems of drug abuse. Legal access to heroin or public injection facilities as well as controlled access to heroin have had dramatic impacts on crime and health.
Rather than continuing to use the same mistaken policies, the US needs a new approach to drug issues. So far eleven states have legalized adult use of marijuana and prosecutors in some cities are no longer prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders. The Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its special Narcotics Unit and reassigning officers to other units to address violent crime.