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"The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. ... All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release."
Sen. Jim Webb in today's Parade Magazine

If you haven't thought much personally about our criminal justice system, some of this may be new to you and I'll try to explain why I care. But the bottom line is that I'm hoping you'll go to this Webb web page and click subscribe - second choice from the right on the navigation.

Please recommend this diary to help Sen. Webb spread the word.

This is a meatier version of a quick diary I posted yesterday.
Take Webb's Back! Easy ACTION: Click & Subscribe

Social indifference is a very powerful thing. So many horrors are caused by the sense of "What does this have to do with me?" As a teen, prison rape first got my attention when the father of a friend was in jail for stealing a television set. He had refused to have sex with anyone and this just wasn't going to fly. Other inmates wrapped him in a blanket, used a bat to break both his arms, and then raped him. This was one of the first stories I'd ever heard where someone capable of standing up for themselves was completely overwhelmed. In the years since, I wish I had a dollar for every time TV and movies have joked while the detective sends a perpetrator to "justice": "Your dance card is going to be completely full." "You're going to be the wife of a guy named Bubba." Etc. Even Jay Leno's monologue. Just an accepted part of American life, right? Male prisoner rape. Ha ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha. No wonder things got worse.

It's a pretty accepted fact among prison activists that this issue gets very little traction on Daily Kos. I don't think "Oh horrors" that we're not more mobilized on this issue, but I really want to see us get Senator Jim Webb's back for what he's trying to accomplish by subscribing to his mailing list. All that's happened is a bill to throw a commission at the problem. Big deal? In the face of widespread indifference towards this issue, it is a very big deal. The truth really stinks when it comes to incarceration in the U.S., its overuse, its inhumanity. Everybody who knows the system knows this. A commission is no joke. It's findings will not be bland.

Sen. Webb (fyi, I remember the hours we spent actively discussing Macaca on this blog) introduced S. 714, The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 on March 26 and it was referred to the Judiciary Committee. It has some high-powered co-sponsors, but it needs more. We have to show we care - that the American people care - enough so that Congress will throw a commission at this huge gaping injustice that harms millions of our fellow Americans. Please check this co-sponsor list carefully, since my diary yesterday showed how easily people just assumed their Senator wasn't on it. For example, Leahy and Warner are already on it. My California senators are not! Feingold isn't on it.

Brown, Sherrod - (D - OH)
Burris, Roland W. - (D - IL)
Cardin, Benjamin L. - (D - MD)
Durbin, Richard - (D - IL)
Gillibrand, Kirsten E. - (D - NY)
Graham, Lindsey - (R - SC)
Kennedy, Edward M. - (D - MA)
Leahy, Patrick J. - (D - VT)
McCaskill, Claire - (D - MO)
Murray, Patty - (D - WA)
Reid, Harry - (D - NV)
Schumer, Charles E. - (D - NY)
Specter, Arlen - (R - PA)
Warner, Mark R. - (D - VA)
Wyden, Ron - (D - OR)

Reminder: Subscribe to Webb's mailing list at
It's the second choice from the right on the navigation bar.

Here are some more excerpts from today's Parade Magazine piece by Webb:

"America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. ...

"We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration. ...

"Our overcrowded, ill-managed prison systems are places of violence, physical abuse, and hate, making them breeding grounds that perpetuate and magnify the same types of behavior we purport to fear. ...

"With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different--and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter."

Reminder: Subscribe to Webb's mailing list at
It's the second choice from the right on the navigation bar.

I was delighted to see that Glenn Greenwald gave Webb major props yesterday for introducing S. 714. Here is some of what Glenn said in his piece titled Jim Webb's courage v. the "pragmatism" excuse for politicians at

"There are few things rarer than a major politician doing something that is genuinely courageous and principled, but Jim Webb's impassioned commitment to fundamental prison reform is exactly that. ...

"What's most notable about Webb's decision to champion this cause is how honest his advocacy is.  He isn't just attempting to chip away at the safe edges of America's oppressive prison state.  His critique of what we're doing is fundamental, not incremental.  And, most important of all, Webb is addressing head-on one of the principal causes of our insane imprisonment fixation:  our aberrational insistence on criminalizing and imprisoning non-violent drug offenders (when we're not doing worse to them).  That is an issue most politicians are petrified to get anywhere near ...

"It's hard to overstate how politically thankless, and risky, is Webb's pursuit of this issue -- both in general and particularly for Webb.  Though there has been some evolution of public opinion on some drug policy issues, there is virtually no meaningful organized constituency for prison reform.  To the contrary, leaving oneself vulnerable to accusations of being 'soft on crime' has, for decades, been one of the most toxic vulnerabilities a politician can suffer ...

"What ought to be demanded of political officials by citizens is precisely the type of leadership Webb is exhibiting here."

Reminder: Subscribe to Webb's mailing list at
It's the second choice from the right on the navigation bar.

That same page has many links for more information. Also, I have to plug the two main groups that have done the most to keep me informed about this issue over the last few years:

I wish I could do more about this issue. Webb is carrying the ball for all of us. We helped put him where he is. Subscribing to his mailing list is almost trivial. But hopefully our numbers can help him show that he has widespread support. Please join Sen. Webb's mailing list now:

Originally posted to philipmerrill on Sun Mar 29, 2009 at 12:19 AM PDT.

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