Back in the 1950s and '60s here in the U.S., we were taught about how the misbegotten, authoritarian regimes in Russia and China were imprisoning so many of their population. The implicit or explicit message associated with the disclosure of this reality was always that this mass incarceration represented a failure on the part of those in power in those countries to understand and be responsive to the legitimate needs of the people.

This was a common message within schools, in the news and within other media. Even within churches. And it made sense.

Now in the news we see things about the U.S. having a larger percentage of its citizens imprisoned than any other country. A recent Agence-France Presse article about a horrible prison riot in Brazil contained this comment: "Brazil has the world's third-largest prison population after the United States and China, with 726,354 inmates as of June 2017, according to the latest official statistics released this month."

Someone who wasn't alive during the 1950s and '60s possibly can't appreciate how unbelievable, how surrealistic, it is to see such a statement and know that this has become the reality within the U.S. We have more people imprisoned than any other country in the world. And you know what? The reasons we were given back then for the mass incarcerations within Russia and China apply here and now as well as they did there and then.

Kenneth Dunning

Mount Vernon

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