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Martin Luther King Day, 2017: Reflection

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, imprisoning 743 per 100,000 people.  Currently, 2.3 million people are incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the country at a rough cost of $24,000 per prisoner per year.

If he were alive today, what would Martin Luther King Jr. be saying? What would he be doing?

Consider for a moment the explosion in Ohio’s prison population over the past thirty years.  In 1929, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, Ohio’s prison population was 8,804.  In 1955, when Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 10,483 people were imprisoned in Ohio.  In 1963, the year of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Ohio incarcerated 11,644 people.  And in 1968, the year Dr. King was assassinated, there were 10,189 people in Ohio’s prisons.  Ten years later, when OJPC’s founder Al Gerhardstein began his civil rights practice, Ohio incarcerated approximately 12,000 prisoners.  But soon thereafter Ohio’s prison population began to soar.  By the time David Singleton joined OJPC in 2002, there were 35,000 prisoners in Ohio. Today, Ohio’s prison population is 50,600, and the correctional budget is a staggering $1.6 billion.

If Dr. King were alive today, would he be working to end mass incarceration in America?