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Ky. Voices: E. Ky. should demand better than another prison

Ky. Voices: E. Ky. should demand better than another prison

Attorney General Eric Holder's Aug. 12 announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice will work to reduce the population of inmates in the Federal Bureau of Prisons is a welcome development.

Even as Holder arrives late to an issue that many have been highlighting for decades, it may now be possible to glimpse the twilight of our system of mass incarceration — the term many use to describe the United States' world-leading prison population (now more than 2.4 million) and rate of incarceration (753 out of every 100,000 people).

Indeed, while the United States accounts for five percent of the global population, we house 25 percent of the world's prisoners. In comparison, consider that the United States has as many people in prison and jail as the next two largest incarcerating countries — Russia and China — combined. It is well past time to decarcerate, close prisons and reinvest in our communities.

But not everyone seems to agree.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and the Letcher County Planning Commission are working hard to attract a federal prison. If they succeed, it would be the sixth federal prison built in central Appalachia since 1992. An additional 10 state and private facilities operate in the region. In total, Eastern Kentucky is home to eight — and now possibly nine — prisons.

In pushing for a new federal facility, Rogers wants to attach the future of his district to prison building and operation. It is time to ask if Rogers' vision is one toward which Kentuckians should strive. Kentuckians already sent a clear message about reducing...

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Published on August 26, 2013

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