Crimes Against Humanity

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By Bill Maher

Let’s talk about North Korea and its extensive system of prisons, re-education camps and gulags.

The Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea recently released a report, documenting just how many of these facilities exist and under what circumstances prisoners are held. The Washington Post adds, “A U.N. Commission of Inquiry concluded in 2014 that the prison system amounted to a crime against humanity. About 120,000 North Koreans are thought to be held in the camps.” What assholes. Not the Washington Post – the North Koreans. What kind of country locks up that many of its citizens?

One like ours, I guess. The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world, to the tune of almost 2.3 million Americans currently behind bars. We are only 4.3 percent of the world’s population but we hold over 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. 

My question is, if North Korea is the evil, oppressive, “crimes against humanity” people and we’re the good, enlightened, “let freedom ring” people, how is it that we see the need to lock more of our citizens up? Are the American people that much more immoral and unethical than the North Korean people? Is it okay with everybody that, just in sheer numbers, we are more punitive towards our own people than a cruel, iron-fisted dictatorship?

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Want more evidence that our system is broken? Just look at Paul Manafort, who was indicted last week on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, failing to file as an agent for Putin’s puppet government in Ukraine, laundering over $18 million, and lying to the FBI. He reported to court in the morning and he was home by afternoon on an unsecured $10 million bond – a drop in the bucket for a criminal this well paid.

Contrast this with what happens to most Americans charged in our criminal justice system, which is summed up on last week’s cover of The Nation: “70% of people in jail haven’t been convicted of a crime. They just can’t afford bail.” It continues on the inside, “Nearly all of the growth in our jail population over the past 30 years is due to the detention of those not yet convicted of any crime. The number of Americans sitting in jail without a conviction is larger than most other countries’ entire incarcerated population.”

Can we even call it “a criminal justice system” when it’s so obviously designed to cater to the rich?