Friday, February 29, 2008


We should all hang our heads in shame:

The Washington Post leads with a new report that reveals more than one in 100 adults in the United States is behind bars. Holding the rank as the country that imprisons more people, both in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of population, is hardly a cheap proposition, as states spend almost $50 billion a year on corrections.


The report by the Pew Center on the United States that found a total of 2.3 million people are incarcerated highlights how minorities have been particularly affected by the tougher sentencing laws imposed in the 1980s. One in 15 black men, and more specifically, one in nine black men ages 20 to 35, are behind bars. For Hispanic men, the figure is one in 36. Although the violent-crime rate has decreased 25 percent since 1987, spending on corrections has increased 127 percent (adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, many believe that nonviolent criminals could be better served by other types of punishment, including community service, which would be far cheaper. "Getting tough on crime has gotten tough on taxpayers," a Pew director tells the NYT.
I want to note that the statics in the study include children. That's right. A number like "1 in 100 people in jail" includes children.

There are three aspects to this that are disturbing. First, our drug policies and laws account for a fair number of these folks. I'd like to know exactly how many, but I'd be willing to bet you that convictions for drug use and the drug trade are a whooping part of the whole thing.

Second, where does the U.S. get off complaining about any other countries treatment of human rights? Aside from our recent propensity to torture, we imprision more people than any other country in the world. More. Than. Anyone.

Finally, economics play a huge part in this. Crime rate and economic growth are directly related. The less wealth available to the entire population, the higher the growth in crime. So everytime we have conservatives, who often wall themselves up in gated communities, push for more tax cuts (for them) and advocate the excesses of capitalism, expect crime to grow. And as quoted above, we all pay for it.

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