It was a radical movement that resulted in America - land of the free - having the highest number of citizens imprisoned that any other country. The radicals persuaded otherwise reasonable people that many Americans were not fit to live among us even if those Americans were never accused of any violent crime.
They were not fit to live among us because they used drugs, committed theft or damaged property. Federal and state governments declared war on drugs by sending millions of Americans needlessly to long minimum mandatory prison sentences where many otherwise good people still languish. Property rights were elevated above the rights of defendants.
And a failure of morality combined with a warped sense of justice led judges and prosecutors to somehow believe that what they were doing was best for all of us even those they incarcerated. The more punishment given to those unfortunate few would free the rest of us from having to worry about our possessions being devalued.
Still every criminal defense lawyer knows that the most effective arguments aren't made at sentencing at all; they're framed and reframed a thousand times until the culture develops an acceptance of basic principles. The basic principles of any society ebb and flows in tidal fashion, today in America finally bending toward less punishment for nonviolent offenders. Even as our trusted law makers, judges and prosecutors subverted the law to use it as a bludgeon destroying those who lived in ways they denounced as immoral. But what about the lost lives, the lost years, the lost loves of every person recklessly sent to prison?
Shouldn't those who instigated this needles be treated to public shame? Shouldn't we not only free the victims of this injustice, but find some way to punish those who failed to observe basic American values?
True American values as embraced within an ideal American justice system must always rise toward granting fair trials, reasonable sentencing and impartial results. It's time to demand that our American gulag stop punishing nonviolent crimes with long terms of prison.