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Prison reform: An unlikely alliance of left and right

ERIC HOLDER and Rick Perry (pictured) have little in common. America’s attorney-general is black, liberal and uses the word “community” a lot. The governor of Texas is white, conservative and says “God” a lot. Last month Mr Holder’s Justice Department sued Texas for allegedly trying to make it harder for blacks to vote. Last year Mr Perry ran to unseat Mr Holder’s boss, Barack Obama.On one thing, however, the two men agree. On August 12th Mr Holder said: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” He then unveiled reforms to reduce the number of people sent to America’s overcrowded federal prisons. In this, he was following the perfectly-coiffed Texan’s lead. Several years ago, Mr Perry enacted similar reforms in the Lone Star State, and they worked.America has the world’s largest prison population. China, which has more than four times as many people and nobody’s idea of a lenient judiciary, comes a distant second. One in 107 American adults was behind bars in 2011—the highest rate in the world—and one in every 34 was under “correctional supervision” (either locked up or on probation or parole). A…

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