In the United States we pride ourselves on being number one. But leading the world in the incarceration of our citizens is not a statistic to be proud of. After some research I found many shocking facts and statistics:
- Our criminal justice system disproportionately locks up minorities, despite the fact that America has a largely white population. One in ten African American males in their 30s are in jail on any given day.
- The US criminal justice system is unaffordable. We spend $212 billion dollars annually to apprehend, try, and incarcerate prisoners, many of whom are non-violent drug offenders or mentally ill.
- Most recently the United States has maintained a prison population of more than 2.3 million people, with the average annual cost of nearly $30,000 per inmate.
- Our criminal justice system also has the longest and most punitive sentencing structures in the modern world. Mandatory minimum sentences force judges’ hands and create disproportionately long sentences compared to our peers.
- Nearly 68 out of every 100 prisoners are rearrested within three years of release. More than half return to a life of incarceration.
- What’s worse is that the US prison system has a large, privatized component. Many prisons in the South, Southwest and Western part of the United States are run by private corporations.
- Those same corporations have a single, pertinent interest — increasing profits. Most of this is accomplished through secretive lobbying to increase sentencing guidelines, encouraging harsher punishment for all varieties of crimes.
It’s time to change this paradigm of locking up so many of our citizens instead of rehabilitating and educating them back in to society. We cannot afford the moral or fiscal damage that this system continues to inflict on our country and its citizens.
The institutionalized racism is shocking and embarrassing. Locking up those that need rehabilitation is shameful and counterproductive.
We can do better than this.