United States, ladies and gentlemen, the land of the free and home of the brave, that would dare to bring democracy to other nations around the world, incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Let's read that again. The United States incarcerates more its own citizens than any nation in the world.I'll bet you thought it was China, or Russia, or some Middle Eastern Country, right?
"According to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment, the United States has a higher rate of incarceration than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria."
And it is getting worse not better.
"Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week between mid-2003 and mid-2004, the nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents, the government reported Sunday.
By last June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3 percent, more than the year before, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the past few years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a year later.
While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, said the report's co-author, Paige Harrison. For example, the number of admissions to federal prisons in 2004 exceeded releases by more than 8,000, the study found."
The biggest burden of incarceration falls on people of color. Not because they are of color, but because they are poorer than whites and so don't get the defense and breaks in the criminal justice system that whites have.
"In 2004, 61 percent of prison and jail inmates were of racial or ethnic minorities, the government said. An estimated 12.6 percent of all black men in their late 20s were in jails or prisons, as were 3.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.7 percent of white men in that age group, the report said."
As I have long stated on this blog, mental health and substance abuse services are being cut right and left in the United States so that the mentally ill and the chemically dependent are increasingly being handled by the criminal justice system. It has always seemed very ironic to me that the first things that legislators cut out of budgets is behavioral health services without realizing that they will pay two, three, four times what they cut from behavioral health services for criminal justice services.
For example, it costs over $30,000.00 per year to incarcerate an inmate in a New York State prison. That same person could be treated for their substance abuse or mental health problem for well under $10,000.00 per year, and could be helped to find employment so that they can contribute to their family's welfare and pay taxes.
Prisons are major pork barrel programs in rural areas in many states and the state prison is the major employer in some counties and so are very popular with many taxpayers. Taking poor people out of cities and incarcerating them in rural areas so that lower middle class people can have jobs as correction officers gets many legislators elected.
"Added Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which promotes alternatives to prison: 'We're working under the burden of laws and practices that have developed over 30 years that have focused on punishment and prison as our primary response to crime.'
He said many of those incarcerated are not serious or violent offenders, but are low-level drug offenders. Young said one way to help lower the number is to introduce drug treatment programs that offer effective ways of changing behavior and to provide appropriate assistance for the mentally ill."
This national disgrace is another example of the class struggle that exists in the United States and nobody wants to talk about it. It always seems laughable to me that a petty thief who steals $500.00 from a convenient store will get more time in prison than a white collar criminal who steals multi-millions from his employee's pension fund.
Link: Yahoo! News - U.S. Prison Population Soars in 2003, '04.