In Michigan, the average spending per prisoner is close to three times that spent per student.

I love my State, but damned if our priorities aren’t seriously fucked up:

via Cool Infographics.

U.S. has highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.

This news item is both stunning and sad: – Report: 1 In Every 99 Americans Now Behind Bars

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.

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.