The Economist on America's Senselessly Harsh Criminal Justice System


A recent Economist article about America's excessively harsh criminal justice system quotes Reason contributors Gene Healy and Harvey Silverglate while hitting several themes that will be familiar to our readers: our country's exceptionally high incareration rate, driven by draconian drug penalties and other mandatory minimum sentences; the conflict between drug control and pain control; and vague, overlapping federal statutes that turn trivial offenses into felonies with multiple penalties. The lead tells the story of George Norris, a 65-year-old orchid importer with Parkinson's disease who received a 17-month prison sentence because some of the people who shipped him flowers did not always do so with the proper paperwork. Had he not pleaded guilty, he could have gotten 10 years: five for lying to a federal official and five for conspiracy.

Radley Balko noted the Norris case last year.

[Thanks to John Kluge for the tip.]