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America is, sadly, a country addicted to bloody and biblical, old-testament style vengeance, not 'corrections' or rehabilitating anyone so they can return as a useful member of society. Never has been nor, unless there are deep psychological changes in the national mindset, especially of the allegedly bucolic rural areas where it is preached from altar, pulpit and civic podium, will there ever be. If it weren't for the Constitution, Vlad Țepeș could probably have been the most popular judge sitting the bench or warden in many states. Nothing is more appreciated in many places than a maximum penalty prosecutor, a 'hanging judge' or a warden from hell.
And once you're in the system, the 'System' is never willing to let go, even if you are an innocent caught in the web. Nor will the System, more than very rarely admit a mistake or punish prosecutorial wrongdoing, such as lying to the jury to convict or deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense. Many judges in the NorthEast are said to refer to cop's testimony on the stand as 'testilying.' Even when the evidence clears a suspect, many times the charges aren't tossed, just modified... See ->
One reason for mass-incarceration is convict labor. After the Civil War, the slaves were freed - except in one special case under the 13th Amendment; the government can keep slaves and engage in 'involuntary servitude' for anyone 'duly convicted' of a crime. Convicts quickly replaced freed slaves as a source of cheap labor that could be rented out to private individuals or used by the states throughout the South. The concept worked very well and spread to other places that had never had the benefits of a captive slave population until then,
Another was as a tool of social control to segregate and manage the lower classes; the book calls it for what it is, prisons and felony convictions are the "New Jim Crow" and it works not only against those of color and the poor, under-educated whites but it is now being turned on the middle classes as well.
Maybe the worst reason is the System can NEVER VOLUNTARILY ADMIT A MISTAKE!
And no, I have never been in trouble, or had a conviction... just been awake and seeing wrongs and injustices other people have gone through for the last 50 odd years even when it was allegedly for their own good, so no, I may love my country and I love the American Dream and all it stood for, but I know that dream isn't real anymore.
Language warning; George Carlin ->