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February 26, 2013 (The Daily Targum)

Marc Mauer discusses US incarceration rate

The United States is imprisoning more citizens than ever before, guest lecturer Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, said yesterday at a lecture hosed by the Center for European Studies.

Mauer, author of Race to Incarcerate, spoke at Rutgers University’s Signature Course, “Lessons from Europe,” to highlight the flaws in the United States’ race to incarcerate.

“It may make us feel good in our gut to send [criminals] to prison, but it’s not solving the problems,” said Mauer, who blames the statistical increases and harsh prison sentences on what he calls the “Get Tough Movement,” an ideology affirming that treating prisoners jarringly and giving longer prison sentences will decrease the crime rate.

California’s three-strikes-policy illustrates this movement, Mauer said. When the state deems a person’s first two offenses as violent, the third offense, even minor felonies, can lead to his or her long-term imprisonment.

Mauer noted a case where a man stole three golf clubs, but since this was his third felony the state sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison. Another man’s third felony was stealing $153 worth of videotapes, and he is now serving a 50-year sentence.

“This is what their three-strikes policy has brought us,” Mauer said.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity