The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. Expert Paul Butler offers 10 ways to fight overincarceration.
1 Do your jury duty. If you are a juror in a nonviolent drug case, vote “not guilty.” Jury nullification — an acquittal based on principle — is perfectly legal.
2 Pay a kid to graduate. Dropping out of school creates a high risk of ending up in jail.
3 Come out of the closet about your drug use. Propaganda says users are bad people. Let your fellow citizens know the real face of the American drug user.
4 Hire a formerly incarcerated person. Every year about 600,000 people get out of jail. Unemployment aids in more than half being rearrested within a year.
5 Vote wisely. Tougher sentences aren’t the answer.
6 Just say no to the police. When cops request your consent to search you, you have the right to decline.
7 Don’t be a professional snitch. If you have information about a violent crime, call the police. Witnessing is fine. But snitches get paid — either in cash or leniency — and make untrustworthy witnesses.
8 Talk up the trades. Retail drug-selling pays about as much as working at McDonald’s. That’s why most drug dealers live with their moms.
9 Let the accused discover the evidence against them. Many defendants don’t see witnesses’ statements — or even get copies of police reports — until the trial.
10 Listen to hip-hop. No other aspect of pop culture has considered as carefully, and as personally, the costs and benefits of the American punishment regime.
– Walter Mosley is a prominent American novelist who edits “Ten Things,” a new monthly feature in Metro.
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