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February 8, 2013

“The Big House That Wayne LaPierre Built”

Reporter Tim Murphy writes about the relationship between the National Rifle Association and the United States prison boom.  He notes that during Senate hearings on gun control this month, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre waded into criminal justice.

"We've supported prison building," LaPierre said during the hearings. 

Then, Murphy writes, LaPierre “hammered California for releasing tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders per a Supreme Court order—what he'd previously termed ‘the largest prison break in American history.’"

Murphy sees the expansion of prisons over the last two decades as “partly a product of the NRA's creation” through its now defunct CrimeStrike program.

Through the program, the NRA “spent millions of dollars pushing a slate of supposedly anti-crime measures across the country that kept America's prisons full—and built new ones to meet the demand.”

Through the program, the NRA “spent millions of dollars pushing a slate of supposedly anti-crime measures across the country that kept America's prisons full—and built new ones to meet the demand.”

 CrimeStrike, created in 1993, pushed for three-strikes law, mandatory minimums and other stricter sentencing guidelines so that even as crime rates dropped, incarceration rates rose, with number of people serving time in state or federal prisons increasing 100 percent between 1990 and 2005.

Nowhere was this more striking than in California and Texas, Murphy writes.  Under California’s guidelines, for example, “nonviolent crimes—including, in one famous case, the filching of a slice of pizza—were enough to put someone behind bars for life.”

Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project stated "there's actually no evidence whatsoever" that three strikes laws have reduced crime.

Now that California is making court-ordered reform, Texas alone leads the nation in incarceration, with 154,000 people behind bars—more prisoners than all but three nations.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Collateral Consequences