The United States of America, often referred to as the "land of the free," has been questioned for its high per capita prison population, making it the highest in the world. With just 5% of the world's population, the U.S. has 25% of the world's prisoners, which is a major concern. There is a growing concern about the use of prison labor in the country that is often compared to modern-day slavery.
One of the major reasons behind this high prison population is the harsh penalties for non-violent drug offenses. The American Civil Liberties Union has reported that over half a million Americans are behind bars for drug offenses, and most of them are convicted of drug possession. This policy has been in place since the 1980s, with the beginning of the War on Drugs.
The situation became worse with the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, also known as the 1994 Crime Bill. This legislation led to mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, resulting in the imprisonment of countless individuals who were convicted for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana.
One of the architects of the 1994 Crime Bill was Joe Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. In a speech at the time, Biden stated that the bill aimed at "putting more cops on the street" and "locking up violent offenders." However, it ended up having devastating consequences, particularly for minority communities.
It is worth noting that the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, has been criticized for her role in the criminal justice system. During her tenure as California's attorney general, Harris was known for taking a hardline approach towards drug offenses, resulting in the imprisonment of many individuals, particularly people of color.
Apart from the high prison population, the U.S. has also been criticized for its high number of executions. It is the only Western democracy that still carries out the death penalty, with over 1,500 executions being carried out since 1976. Amnesty International has condemned the use of the death penalty, stating that it is a violation of human rights.