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Explain the social impact of the "unintended consequences" of US incarceration policies, providing concrete examples. What would you suggest to lawmakers with regard to sentencing and release decisions?

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Unfortunately, there are many unintended consequences that result from current and past incarceration policies, and the social impact of these consequences almost always has a disproportionally high effect on minority communities, such as racial minorities, women, and LGBQ+ members.

An example of "unintended consequences" from the war on drugs incarceration policy could be the mass imprisonment of African Africans from the 1970s to the present day. One-fifth of the current US prison population were incarcerated due to drug related offences, which will in turn create obstacles for higher education and employment. Studies have proven that drug-related charges are more likely to result in a prison sentence for African Americans than white Americans, solidifying a perpetual underclass and trapping generations in a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

Another example of how incarceration policy has impacted the social fabric of America is the relatively light sentences given out to rapists and sexual assault perpetrators. Although the maximum penalty for rape is twenty-five years, a meta-data analysis showed that the average sentence was in fact only fifteen years long. This, ironically, is comparable to many drug-related sentences and highlights the patriarchal structure of the current judicial system.

Undoubtedly it is time for lawmakers to reassess how factors such as race, gender, and sexuality have historically influenced their sentencing and release decisions, and to update these measures to reflect current public views.

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