Except for Paul Manafort, We Put People in Prison For Too Long

Paul Manafort received a sentence of 47 months yesterday for his various and sundry white-collar crimes. That number might go up during his second sentencing hearing next week, but then again, it might not.

I don’t care all that much about Manafort’s sentence, but it’s worth comparing it with the average sentence that non-rich folks get in the US:

We are prison crazy in America, racking up an average sentence length of 63 months. This is five times the length of most of our peer countries. But when it comes to white-collar crime, people like Manafort get off relatively easy.

If the average sentence in the US were, say, a more normal 12 months, then Manafort’s 47 months would seem appropriately harsh. And since there’s little evidence that long prison sentences do much to reduce crime, it would be great if both states and the federal government moved in that direction. It’s long past time to dial down the criminal justice system from its excesses of the 80s and 90s.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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