This news item is both stunning and sad:
For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008—one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
By contrast, in mid 2002 the ratio was 1 in 142, with the prison population surpassing 2 million for the first time.
Land of the free my ass. Not only are we locking a lot of people that probably don’t need to be, but we’re overwhelming state budgets with all the costs of doing so. Part of the reason is due to the popularity of zero tolerance and three strikes laws that were put on the books over the years, particularly for non-violent drug users. And, as usual, there’s a big racial discrepancy as well:
“For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling,” the report said. “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.”
Prison reform is something none of the candidates are talking about, but they should be. This is something that needs to be dealt sooner rather than later.