Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton can't possibly know very many people who have been jailed or imprisoned.
If he did, he wouldn't make terribly
uninformed remarks like those
"If anything, we have an
Cotton incorrectly said it's the mass incarceration that
senator also criticized states like Virginia, which in April restored voting
rights for 200,000
"We turned our society around and we made our streets safe again," Cotton said. "But this didn't just happen by accident."
Read the text of his prepared speech here.
The senator is right that America's criminal justice
policies were deliberate in scope. However, there are so many statistics that prove Cotton has
locks people up at a rate that is higher than any
other country on the globe.
The country's rate is 716 per 100,000 people, according to the World Prison Population List by the U.K.'s International
Center for Prison Studies. More than half of the 222 nations on the
Approximately 1.5 million people were living in state and federal prisons in 2013, according to federal data. Each year, those facilities release about 650,000 men and women, some of them without the right to vote and most of them with severe disadvantages in the job market.
Mass incarceration has made the U.S.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research has estimated that because formerly incarcerated people have poor job prospects, the nation's gross domestic product in 2008 was reduced by as much as $65 billion, according to its 2010 report.
While the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated individuals isn't tracked nationally, in New York, the unemployment rate for parolees was as high as 60% one year after release, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Men of color are locked up at disproportionate rates compared to white men.
Black men were six times more likely to be incarcerated than white
Despite these statistics, it's Cotton's
Formerly incarcerated people often have hard times finding employment, can be saddled with incarceration-related debts, and prohibited from public assistance services, such as Section 8 Housing and financial aid for college. Too many can end up right back in jail because so-called leaders like Cotton would prefer the formerly incarcerated never get the opportunity to move on to better lives.