Mass Incarceration Epidemic – Prison overcrowding statistics in the United States and Overcrowding in prisons
Nearly half of all prisoners in the USA are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
By 2007, states spent more than $44 billion on incarceration and related expenses, a 127% jump from 1987. Over this same period, spending on higher education rose only 21%.
Statistics on overcrowding prisons show the U.S. prison population rose by 700% from 1970 to 2005, a rate far outpacing that of general population growth and crime rates.
While 1 out of every 122 Americans is now actually in prison, 1 out of every 32 of us is either in prison or on parole.
This means that 7 million adult men and women — about 4.1 percent of the total U.S. adult population — are now very non-voluntary members of America’s “correctional community.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) the United States has the highest documented incarceration rate and most overcrowded prisons in the world.
What do the prison figures show about U.S. society? That various social programs, including those dealing with education, poverty, urban development, health care and child care, have failed.
There are a number of social programs we have failed to deliver. There are systemic failures going on. And a lot of these people then end up in the criminal justice system.
A friend once told me the high prison numbers represented a proper response to the crime problem in the United States and that it simply displayed that we have “the best criminal justice system in the world.”
It is true we have far higher crime rates that European nations and Japan. And more crime gets you more prisoners. But we are kidding ourselves if we think for one second that prison rehabilitates offenders. Quite the opposite — we now have more people going to prison then we have coming out, and that figure is increasing at an alarming rate.
I don’t know the solution but why don’t we start with reforming mandatory sentencing laws and the record number of nonviolent drug offenders subject to them.