Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Surprise: We're World's Incarceration Leader

ABC News reports on a Justice Department report, released in early June, describing the rise of the prison culture in America:
Among the highlights:

- "In the 10 largest states, prison populations increased "during 2006 at more than three times (3.2 percent) the average annual rate of growth (0.9 percent) from 2000 through 2005."

- "of the 2.3 million inmates in custody, 2.1 million were men and 208,300 were women.

- Black males represented the largest percentage (35.4 percent) of inmates held in custody, followed by white males (32.9 percent) and Hispanic males (17.9 percent)."

- The United States [not only] leads the industrialized world in incarceration [our] rate of incarceration (762 per 100,000) is five to eight times that of other highly developed countries, according to The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice think tank.

- Locking up these prisoners comes with huge economic costs. The Sentencing Project estimates that cost to be $60 billion per year for federal, state and local prison systems

- 8 states have recently contemplated releasing prisoners early.

Michigan's Governor said this recently, showing the economic realities confronting states dealing with slowing rates of economic growth and spiraling rates of incarceration rates:

"Our efforts to grow Michigan's economy and keep our state competitive are threatened by the rising costs in the Department of Corrections," Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently told The Detroit News. "We spend more on prisons than we do on higher education, and that has got to change."
According the News, the Michigan Corrections Department already devours 20 cents of every tax dollar in the state's general fund and employs nearly one in every three state government workers, compared with 9 percent of the work force 25 years ago.

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