America’s prison catastrophe: Can we undo it?

The US prison system continues to fail, so why does it still exist?

  • The United States is the world's largest prison warden. As of June 2020, America had the highest prisoner rate, with 655 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population. But according to experts, doing something the most doesn't mean doing it the best.
  • The system is a failure both economically and in terms of the way inmates are treated, with many equating it to legal slavery. American prisons en masse are expensive, brutal, and ineffective, so why aren't we trying better alternatives? And what exactly are these overstuffed facilities accomplishing?
  • Damien Echols and Shaka Senghor share first-hand accounts of life both in and after prison, while political science professor Marie Gottschalk, activist Liza Jessie Peterson, historian Robert Perkinson, and others speak to the ways that America's treatment of its citizens could and should improve. "The prison industrial complex is a human rights crisis," says Peterson. "Something needs to be done."
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Legal standards invoke the ‘reasonable person’. Who is it?

The 'reasonable person' represents someone who is both common and good.

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Countless legal standards ask what the 'reasonable person' would do. But who is this person?
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Is it time to decriminalize prostitution? Two New York bills answer yes in unique ways

One bill hopes to repeal the crime of selling sex and expand social services; the other would legalize the entire sex trade.

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  • Today in the majority of the United States, it is a crime to sell sex, buy it, or promote its sale.
  • The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act would decriminalize prostitution in New York state while maintaining punitive measures against buyers and pimps.
  • Opponents suggest this law would only push the illegal sex trade further underground and seek full decriminalization for everyone involved.
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    What are the limits of free speech?

    7 scholars and legal experts dissect what you can and can't say in America.

    • The free speech debate typically happens at either end of a spectrum — people believe they should be able to say whatever they want, or they believe that certain things (e.g. hate speech) should be censored. Who is right, and who gets to decide?
    • While they acknowledge that speech is a powerful weapon that can cause infinite good and infinite harm, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen, sociologist Nicholas Christakis, author and skeptic Michael Shermer, and others agree that the principle should be defended for everyone, not just for those who share our views. "I'm not defending the Nazis," says Strossen, "I'm defending a principle that is especially important for those of us who want to have the freedom to raise our voices, to protest the Nazis and everything they stand for."
    • However, as Strossen and attorney Floyd Abrams point out, there have always been boundaries when it comes to free speech and the First Amendment. There are rules, established by the Supreme Court, meant to ensure that speech is not used to inflict "imminent, specific harm" on others.
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    Oregon decriminalizes drugs: Here are 3 metrics other states will track

    It's "the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

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    • Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
    • The state also legalized the therapeutic use and sale of psilocybin mushrooms.
    • As the laws go into effect, other U.S. states will be watching to see how the experiment plays out, influencing future votes across the country.
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