by Paul Wright
COVID-19 has not gone away; indeed it seems to be worsening in prisons and jails around the country. But this month’s cover story on prisons in Iceland serves as a reminder that not all countries have, or want, a police state that cages one percent of its adult population on any given day. Reporting on prisons or jails in almost any industrialized country and comparing its practices to those of the United States is not an apples to oranges comparison so much as an apples to laundry detergent comparison: there simply isn’t one.
It is no surprise that we do not hear of anyone wanting to emulate the U.S. criminal justice system. When I speak with people from other countries, especially in Europe, there tends to be a mixture of disgust and amazement when it comes to the U.S. police state. With the rise of the internet, news indeed travels faster than ever before. Between 2010 and 2019, a total of 25 people were killed by police in England. The U.S., by contrast, does not value the lives of its citizens enough to even bother counting them. Recently, media outlets have taken to tallying up police killings that make it into the media and those numbers are running around 1,600 or more a year. Then there are places like Iceland, which take an entirely different approach, as you’ll see from this issue’s cover story.
While COVID-19 continues pushing a surging body count of prisoners around the U.S., we don’t want to lose sight of all the other bad things that occur on a daily basis in the American criminal justice system, like the rapes, beatings, murders, taking of money, etc., have stopped or abated just because there is a pandemic going on. They have not. News coverage has, but that is another matter. If anything, COVID-19 has accentuated the shortcomings of the American gulag, like inadequate health care and overcrowding, and shown that what was already a brutal, deadly and incompetent mess has become even deadlier and more brutal once COVID-19 was added to the mix.
I would like to thank readers for continuing to send us COVID-19 updates for our reporting on what is happening throughout the U.S. prison and jail system. When readers settle or win lawsuits, please send us the complaint and the settlement or verdict sheet so we can report them.
We still have a few hundred of the special COVID-19 PLN subscriptions available at the rate of $1 for six issues. Once the six issues expire, I hope readers will want to continue their subscriptions at the regular rate. Renew as soon as possible to avoid missing any issues. PLN subscribers who had an active subscription of the July PLN should have also received a free sample copy of Criminal Legal News, the other magazine published by the Human Rights Defense Center. I hope you will consider subscribing to CLN as well.
Between PLN and CLN we have total coverage of the American police state from criminal law and procedure, policing, prison and jail conditions, parole, probation and collateral consequences of criminal convictions.
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