In the 1970s, our nation’s policy makers embraced a drug war and clamored to appear tough on crime—and the United States Senate helped lead the way. With bipartisan determination, federal laws were changed, punishments were put on steroids, and our prison populations exploded. Federal laws such as 1986’ s Anti–Drug Abuse Act and 1994’ s crime bill sent a flood of money into states to incarcerate more Americans and build more prisons to hold them. As a result, the federal prison population has expanded 800 percent since 1980. America has become the undisputed global leader in putting her own citizens behind bars—our nation is home to 5 percent of the world’s population but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prison population. In the land of the free, you have more of a chance of losing your freedom to incarceration for a nonviolent crime than anywhere else on the planet.
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