The scope of the problem is vast: We have 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's known prison population. More than 7 million Americans are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole; 2.27 million Americans are in prison — five times the world's average incarceration rate. At the same time, two-thirds of Americans say there is more crime today than a year ago.
The disintegration of our criminal justice system, day by day and year by year, and the movement toward mass incarceration — with very little attention being paid to clear standards of prison administration or meaningful avenues of re-entry for those who have served their time — are dramatically affecting millions of lives. They are draining billions of dollars from our economy, destroying notions of neighborhood and family in hundreds of communities across the country, and — most importantly — not making our country a safer or a fairer place.
It is in the interest of every American, in every community across this land, that we thoroughly re-examine our entire criminal justice system in a way that allows us to interconnect all of its different aspects when it comes to finding proper approaches and solutions to each component part. I am convinced that the most appropriate way to conduct this examination is through a presidential-level commission, tasked to bring forth specific findings and recommendations for the Congress to consider and, where appropriate, enact.