United States is number 1 in the world for locking up her own citizens.

Am I the only person who finds this particularly disheartening?

US: Record Numbers for World’s Leading Jailer

Statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the US Department of Justice, show that at the end of 2006, more than 2.25 million persons were incarcerated in US prisons and jails, an all-time high. This number represents an incarceration rate of 751 per 100,000 US residents, the highest such rate in the world. By contrast, the United Kingdom’s incarceration rate is 148 per 100,000 residents; the rate in Canada is 107; and in France it is 85. The US rate is also substantially higher than that of Libya (217 per 100,000), Iran (212), and China (119). 

“These figures confirm an unenviable record: the United States is the world’s leading prison nation,” said David Fathi, director of the US program at Human Rights Watch. “Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more of its citizens than do Canada, Britain, and other democratic countries. The US is even ahead of governments like China that use prisons as a political tool.” 

The US prison population has increased approximately 500 percent in the last 30 years, and continues to grow. The 2006 increase was the largest one-year jump in the last six years. The per capita incarceration rate has also increased steadily, from 684 per 100,000 residents in 2000 to 751 per 100,000 in 2006. 

The new BJS figures also show sharp racial disparities in US incarceration rates, with black men incarcerated at a rate 6.2 times higher than white men. Nearly 8 percent of all black men ages 30 to 34 in the United States were incarcerated as sentenced prisoners at the end of 2006.

“Land of the Free” my ass. There’s a certain irony when one stops to consider that America is also one of the most religious countries in the world. Christians often argue that being a Christian promotes morality and better living so you’d think that would lead to fewer people in prison, but that’s not the case and I know most of those people sitting in jail cells aren’t atheists. Not to suggest that being a Christian makes you more immoral, but it certainly doesn’t seem to help all that much.

13 thoughts on “United States is number 1 in the world for locking up her own citizens.

  1. Not likely to change anytime soon.  As long as there are people out there pushing the “tough on crime” laws through the system.  It’s not that being tough on crime in itself is a horrible idea.  It’s just seems that the laws tend to focus on targeting the lower classes. 

    America seems to be a fan of creating ideological wars.  Like the war on drugs, after all these years can they really say they’ve made any headway what so ever?  I guess it would depend on what your metric is for gauging the whole thing.  If it’s the number of offenders jailed than the war on drugs seems to be doing a bang up job of putting people in prison for surprisingly long periods of time.

  2. What better way to take away the right to vote from millions of poor people? And if any of the elite get tossed in too you simply pardon them because the “damage to their reputation” is satisfactory.

  3. Pretty simple concept: Follow the law, stay out of jail.

    If they can’t follow a simple set of rules, it is their own fault if they end up in prison.

  4. You know, the numbers would be even higher if major population areas had jails that weren’t already overcrowded.  A lot of misdemeanor arrests get findings of “no probable cause” simply because of that.

    I have noticed that the worse the Chicago neighborhood you’re in, the more churches you’ll find.

  5. I suppose it would be overly cynical of me to presume a connection between the increasing number of Americans behind bars, and the fact that building prisons, now increasingly privatised, is one of the biggest growth industries in America.

    No, it’s just that Americans are becoming increasingly evil because of evolution being taught in school- that’s it for sure.

  6. Ahh, sweet sweet sarcasm and irony… is there anything better?

    At least I hope I’m correct in reading some of the comments as sarcasm… otherwise wow <=o

  7. Same sort of problem over here- though not yet of US proportions.  The problem is we have run out of space, and people are being let out on licence a couple of weeks early.

    This came to a head when one man on licence (on assault conviction) killed his girlfreind- of course the press had a field day, ignoring the judges comments at the murder sentencing, saying that the early release would not have stopped him. Lets face it- he is hardly going to be reformed in just another 10 days after doing 18 months.

    Of course the cries have gone up for more jails.  Problems. They cost a lot of money. No one wants one near them, so planning takes ages because of the appeals. They take a long time to build.

    Contrary to Michael Howard’s assertion- prison DOESN’T work. It breed criminals. Often it is the perceived ‘soft options’ that have a much lower re-offence rate.

    This Dyslexia institute report from 2005 shows that a significant percentage of prisoners have learning disabilities.

    52% were found to have limited literacy skills, which will seriously hamper their learning and work opportunities, and 20% of the total prison population were found to have a hidden disability.

    Also drug related crimes make up a disproptionate numebr of prisoners, especially of non whites- this about the US

    Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black, 50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic, and 64,800 (25.83%) were white.

    This about drug related crime in the UK.

    The first NEW-ADAM analysis (1999) from the Home Office [12] first report found that:

    “Almost half of arrestees (46%) who reported using drugs in the last 12 months believed that their drug use and crime were connected. The most frequent connection cited was the need for money to buy drugs. There was also some support for the view that arrestees whose drug use and crime were connected would report higher levels of criminal involvement. Arrestees who said that their drug use and offending were connected reported illegal incomes (a measure of criminal involvement) on average two to three times higher than those who said that their drug use and crime were not connected.

    The research found a statistically significant correlation between number of positive urine tests and amount of reported illegal income (the ave rage illegal income of arrestees with no positive tests was £3,000, compared with over £12,000 among arrestees with three positive tests). Arrestees who tested positive for opiates, methadone, or cocaine reported levels of illegal income two to three times higher than those who tested negative for these drugs.”

    Based at least in part on the NEW-ADAM research, the (2003) report from the Number 10 Strategy Unit [13] claimed that over half of all property crimes were drug motivated:

    “Heroin and/or crack users cause harm to the health and social functioning of users and society as a whole, but users also commit substantial amounts of crime to fund their drug use (costing £16bn a year)”. (p.2)
    “Drug use is responsible for the great majority of some types of crime, such as shoplifting and burglary ” (inc 85% of shoplifting, 70-80% of burglaries, 54% of robberies)

    But there is no money to cure drug addiction…

  8. Quote time smile

    On the relationship between the legal system and Christian morality, I am reminded of H.L. Menken saying:

    People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police.

    On the legal system as a growth industry, I am reminded of Frank Herbert’s words:

    Laws to suppress tend to strengthen what they would prohibit. This is the fine point on which all legal professions of history have based their job security.

    On this idiotic notion that Moloch just shared : 

    Follow the law, stay out of jail.

    I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

    In the US, there are many forces that contribute to our preeminent position as the world’s biggest big house, but at least there are occasionally some small rays of sunshine.

  9. That ray of sunshine is welcome indeed, Michael.  How much longer before people see that prison is not the appropriate place for drug offenders?

  10. I am of the same mind that the War on Drugs is a loser when a cost-benefit analysis is done.  That said, I also think the criminal justice system here in the U.S. is extremely efficient at obtaining convictions because of the access to sophisticated resources.  That is not a bad thing.

    That being said, Les, your point about Christians is poorly thought out.  One would expect statistically that most inmates are Christians.  The comparison point that you should look at is this:

    Are the incarceration rates higher or lower for self-reported practicing Christians, prior to incarceration, in comparsion to the incarceration rates for those who were self-professed to be atheists prior to incarceration? 

    Tell us what you find out.  smile

  11. I think that religion in prison statistics is probably mostly relevant to discussions regarding race and poverty in people who are put in prison. It’s not causal it’s profile. Or to put another way, I’d cheerfully play upon your own and your fellow Christian’s bizarre sense of persecution if I thought it would change our fucked up Justice system. I think that it’s one of the few things important enough to do something about that I’d be willing to engage the superstitious mind’s propensity for paranoia for.

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