Derrick Z. Jackson
The Boston Globe

What is the “world’s leading prison state”? asked Derrick Z. Jackson. You might think it is repressive China or Putin’s Russia. But as a recent Pew Center study recently revealed, it’s the U.S., where 2.3 million people—one out of every 100 adult Americans—now languish behind bars. Per capita, our rate of imprisonment easily exceeds that of Russia, is six times that of China, and seven times that of Germany and France. The primary crime behind this swelling population is not robbery or murder but the sale and possession of drugs. Under draconian laws adopted during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, most of those sentenced to long prison terms are black: One in 15 black men is in jail, compared to one in 106 white males. Yet, in an amazing act of hypocrisy, the State Department last week issued an annual human-rights report that condemned Russia, Burma, and China for arbitrarily imprisoning too many of their citizens. Nations that live in glass prisons shouldn’t throw stones.