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Monday, October 24, 2011

More on the incarceration boom

by John MacBeath Watkins

Now, here's an interesting statistic:

We're now prosecuting about three times as many people for "public order" offenses, and this really took off in 1996. Public order includes immigration, firearms, and indecency cases.

So what happened in 1996?

 The Communications Decency Act of 1996. Aimed at internet porn, the part of it intended to protect children from being exposed to porn was struck down almost immediately as too broad, but the rest of the act, which affected the publication of obscenity as defined by community standards, allowed prosecutors almost unlimited venue shopping, because internet publishers can't restrict distribution of their product by geography.

So now, we're dealing with about three times as many public order cases as we used to. Was this part of the calculation we were given when the law passed, or is the cost of trials and incarceration never mentioned?

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