Incarceration Rate Winner? United States – We Incarcerate 1 in 100 Citizens! Is That Something to be Proud Of

One out of every 100 U. S. adults is in jail or prison. That is a startling statistic and not something to be proud of – in fact, it’s down right embarrassing.

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According to the Pew Report, cited here, (The Pew Charitable Trusts applies the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew’s Center on the States identifies and advances effective policy approaches to critical issues facing states) Three decades of growth in America’s prison population has quietly nudged the nation across a sobering threshold: for the first time, more than one in every 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison.

As startling as the one in one hundred statistic is – these next facts are shocking and deserve the attention of our society at large.

For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling. While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine. Gender adds another dimension to the picture. Men still are roughly 10 times more likely to be in jail or
prison, but the female population is burgeoning at a far brisker pace.

As a white collar crime speaker, and one who is part of the statistic above (as I’ve been incarcerated), I understand that every choice has a consequence. Likewise, I do believe that you reap what you sow. However, there are those whose crimes should warrant some form of alternative punishment rather than incarceration.

Prison is big business – make no mistake. In many areas the inmate population supports the governments infrastructure. In my case, I was an inmate at a minimum security facility located on an airforce base. We (the inmates) were used to perform tasks that otherwise would have either been contracted out to civilian employees or been done by airforce personnel themselves. We were effective cheap labor.

Lawmakers are learning that current prison growth is not driven primarily by a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the population at large. Rather, it flows principally from a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing enhancements, keeping them there longer.

While I do believe in punishment and deserved what I got – so I have no axe to grind here – it is true that “tough on crime” is politically popular. Can you really imagine any politician saying that prisons are overcrowded and costs each of us too much, so we need to have alternatives so that parole violators don’t go back. If that were said, they would not be elected.

There is much to be digested in the Pew report. I suggest you click on the link above ot read the entire report. Meanwhile, there will be more blog entries as the entirety of the report is covered.

Questions:

  • What would you do to reduce the inmate population in the US?
  • Since 1 in 100 Americans are incarcerated, what example can you provide in response to this report, that shows a person who should not have been incarcerated?
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