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Jail break

America’s prisons are failing. Here’s how to make them work

HIRLEY SCHMITT is no one’s idea of a dangerous criminal. She lived quietly on a farm in Iowa, raising horses and a daughter, until her husband died in 2006. Depressed and suffering from chronic pain, she started using methamphetamine. Unable to afford her habit, she and a group of friends started to make the drug, for their own personal use. She was arrested in 2012, underwent drug treatment, and has been sober ever since. She has never sold drugs for profit, but federal mandatory minimum rules, along with previous convictions for drug possession and livestock neglect, forced the judge to sentence her to ten years in prison. Each year she serves will cost taxpayers roughly $30,000—enough to pay the fees for three struggling students at the University of Iowa. When she gets out she could be old enough to draw a pension.



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They knocked on the door. Facing me, two hoarse eyes. And behind, a child who barely holds them up with his six years of the national misery. He holds outs his begging hand and on the face of my country my heart falls, protesting with punches the prior death of this man. Even so, when I give him the bread, the tenderness of his eyes greet me from the depth of his ignorance. ORC

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