Mass Incarceration In the US: What You Need to Know
Published February 24, 2022
The US holds just 5% of the world’s population, but it has the unfortunate reputation of having the most number of its citizens in prison. Yes, mass incarceration in the US is real, and it should be a cause for great concern.
As of 2016, around 2.2 million adults are locked up in US jails and prisons. Incarceration rates are about 25% of the total population in the United States. For the past 50 years, the number of incarcerated has grown to a whopping 700% – the fastest in the world.
Here are five other things you didn’t know about mass incarceration in the US.
Money Decides Who Gets Out
The thing with mass incarceration is it hits the poor harder than the rich. It is estimated that around 600,000 people (or 2/3 of the total inmate population) have not been convicted of a crime. They just can’t afford bail. So, the bottom line is money decides who gets out and who doesn’t.
For those who have the financial capacity to post bail, getting out of jail is a piece of cake. Otherwise, they get stuck inside or forced to avail of a high-interest bail bond.
Blame It On Inconsistent Law Enforcement And Justice Systems
Most people blame the government’s war on drugs for the burgeoning prison population. But that is not the case at all. The real problem lies in inconsistent law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Some states punish drug offenses more heavily than others.
Take, for example, the three-strike rule in California. Under this, if someone has been convicted of a serious felony case twice before, the third time will earn them a sentence of 25 years to life. Serious felonies robbery, arson, criminal threats, and giving illegal drugs to a minor. In other states, some of these crimes are not considered serious felonies and thus won’t qualify the offender for the three-strike rule.
Most Inmates Are Minorities
Even though African-Americans comprise only 12% of the country’s residents, they represent 33% of the inmate population. This brings to light how minorities are disproportionately affected by collateral consequences of incarceration.
In fact, it is estimated that one in every three African-American boys born today can expect to go to a public or private prison in his lifetime. The same is also true for one in every six Latino.
Recidivism Is A Real Problem
According to a report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 76.6% of all inmates released in 2005 were arrested again within five years. 67.8% of them were arrested within three years. The United States, in fact, has the highest rates of recidivism among all the developed countries in the world.
Various factors have been attributed to this. One is that our federal prisons are too focused on excessive punishment rather than rehabilitation. Policymakers and prison administrators tend to forget that those inmates will eventually get out. Thus, no preparations have been made for their reentry into society. They tend to have no useful skills, and the stigma surrounding ex-convicts seriously hurts their job-hunting efforts. Though some prisons have put in place several reentry programs in recent years, much remains to be done.
It’s Costly For The Country
Did you know that our country spends around 80 million per year for the upkeep of prisoners? Yes, and they come from the people’s taxes. Rather than using it on more useful projects like roads and bridges, the government is spending that amount of money to keep its citizens in a prison in the United States from their families.
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn is an SEO Specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.