N.Y. Dem: America Less Competitive Because Talent Sitting Behind Bars

A New York congressman, speaking in support of Attorney General Eric Holder's pledge to pursue sentencing reform, said America is less competitive in the world because our talent is sitting behind bars.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said sentencing reform advocates see that lengthy prison terms in the war on drugs are "bringing down America."

"Likewise, you see that America is not able to compete with other countries because our talent, we are locking them up, spending all the money on jails and not putting money in schools to educate them so that they are able to take the jobs that we're creating right here in America, the good high-tech jobs if we train them," Meeks said on MSNBC. "We use the same amount of money that we use to lock up folks, to educate folks, then we will see we will start moving up in the world again and educating and putting people to work. And that's what America wants because they understand it helps us when folks are working and not in jail."

The former prosecutor said he was driven away from his profession because of discretion taken away from prosecutors and judges due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

"And I think what the American people are saying now, because they see these horrendous kinds of cases where people because of three strikes and you're out, or because of the mandatory minimums are going to jail for a long period of time when they should not have gone for that period of time," Meeks continued. "And so, they want the proper justice for the proper people. And clearly, it's gone way above board, and now the American people are starting to have their voice. Twenty-five percent of the entire prison population in the world is here in the United States of America."

Meeks said Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) already held a meeting in Chicago to discuss sentencing reform.

"They are looking to take that from city to city so that we can address those issues and work with the attorney general to make sure that the criminal, the real criminal goes behind bars, but those that, you know, just innocent and have been in there for a long period of time for nonviolent drug offenses, they should not be there," he said.