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Reading about the short, troubled life of Freddie Gray – who suffered lead poisoning as a child, was arrested for drug offenses more than a dozen times, and eventually died in police custody some two weeks ago in Baltimore – I recalled a description of this world of young men, mostly black, trapped in America's criminal justice system.It is well-known by now that with nearly 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has close to 25 percent of the world's prisoners and, Black adds, 50 percent of the world's lawyers. America's prison population is many, many times higher, per capita, than that of other advanced democracies such as Canada, Britain, France and Japan.Prosecutors win 95 percent of their cases, 90 percent of them without ever having to go to trial, says Black, noting that the overall conviction rate is 60 percent in Canada and around 50 percent in Britain. In describing that system, the great English jurist William Blackstone said, "Better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer".We have strayed very far from that core conviction in America today.
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