Mass incarceration represents the greatest social injustice of our time, at least from my perspective. I am on a mission to reform this system. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has said, we incarcerate far too many people in our country. Even Attorney General Eric Holder recently said that the biggest problem with America’s criminal justice system is that we lock up far too many people for far too many years.
Ironically, Attorney General Eric Holder made his statement on August 12, 2013, which was the same day that I finished serving 26 consecutive years in federal prison for a nonviolent drug offense. Now that I am free from the Bureau of Prisons, the muzzle that has muted my voice has been removed.
While I was in custody, authorities threatened me with retaliation for speaking with the media about the injustices of mass incarceration. Those beholden to our nation’s prison system fail to appreciate that by violating a prisoner’s rights to freedom of speech, they simultaneously violate the rights of all taxpaying citizens to assess the merits of a prisoner’s arguments. During the times of slavery, those in power did not want slaves speaking either. But escaped slaves like Frederick Douglas made a point of bringing attention to the injustice of that wretched policy.
At some point in our nation’s future, I suspect that others will view our policy of mass incarceration as a matter of disgust. We incarcerate 2.3 million people at a cost that exceeds $70 billion per year. Powerful forces want to perpetuate these cycles of failure that breed an intergenerational recidivism. I invite others to work with me in bringing more attention to the reasons why we must change policies that result in too many people serving sentences that are far too long.
The lengthy sentences that people serve do not only influence the lives of offenders. They influence the lives of every American citizen. While prison budgets grow, budgets for other social programs like healthcare, education, and infrastructure suffer.
Now that I am free from the Bureau of Prisons, I will write more openly to advance the argument on why we as a nation must work together to bring more sanity to our nation’s sentencing policies. The submenu attached to this section will offer articles I write or articles that illustrate the influences that imprisonment has on our society. I invite readers to share those articles and engage with me in the dialogue. The Internet provides us with a magnificent opportunity to spread the word, and I invite all visitors to work with me at MichaelSantos.com to help others understand the reasons why our enlightened society should work together to reform our system of justice so that it contributes to community safety rather than warehousing humanity.