From today's New York Times Briefing:
President Obama visits the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution near Oklahoma City today, where he will talk about the need for more humane conditions in prisons.
As with the case of animal agriculture, it's easy to call for humane treatment, but we should really ask ourselves, "why are they locked up at all?" According to the Sentencing Project, nearly half a million of those locked up - about a quarter of the total incarcerated population - are locked up for drug offenses. Beyond incarceration, half of all drug arrests are for the possession of marijuana.
Among its many consequences, one result of this policy is a staggering number of missing black men.
Humane is better, but what we most need is freedom for people wrongly behind bars. And it bears saying that drug offenses are the low-hanging fruit. The American incarceration problem goes well deeper than that. More broadly, we deal with violent offenses with a view to revenge, something far from the euphemistic term "corrections." That's not just an issue of being humane - it's an issue of justice.