Get a Little Less Tough on Crime

Mortimer B. Zuckerman, May 9, 2014

Too many people are in prison who should not be there. How many? Most of them! It is not that they are wholly innocent of the offenses that put them there. It is that they are in prison mainly because we have criminalized vast areas of conduct involving nonviolent offenders and compounded that with a distorted system of sentencing. Criminal justice cries out for reform.

Since 1980, the prison population has grown by about 800 percent while the country’s population has increased by only a third. We have 5 percent of the world’s population – but 25 percent of its prisoners. By comparison, as Richard Viguerie, chairman of, noted last year in a New York Times op-ed, the total correctional control rate under President Ronald Reagan (including everyone in prison or jail, or on probation or parole) was less than half the current rate. And here’s another shocker: Nonviolent offenders account for 90 percent of federal prisoners.

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