Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Intelinvestor, Apr 24, 2008.


    Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’

    Published: April 23, 2008

    The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
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    American Exception
    Millions Behind Bars

    This series of articles examines commonplace aspects of the American justice system that are actually unique in the world.

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    Prison Population Around the Globe

    Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

    Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

    The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

    China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

    San Marino, with a population of about 30,000, is at the end of the long list of 218 countries compiled by the center. It has a single prisoner.

    The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

    The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63.

    The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

    There is little question that the high incarceration rate here has helped drive down crime, though there is debate about how much.

    Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America’s extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

    Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing.

    It used to be that Europeans came to the United States to study its prison systems. They came away impressed.

    “In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States,” Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in 1831, wrote in “Democracy in America.”

    No more.

    “Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror,” James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. “Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons.”

    Prison sentences here have become “vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared,” Michael H. Tonry, a leading authority on crime policy, wrote in “The Handbook of Crime and Punishment.”

    Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States “a rogue state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western approach.”

    The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975, the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)

    The nation’s relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.
  2. Personally, I think our system is far too lenient on violent crime. Virtually every gruesome crime seems to be committed by some thug who has been repeatedly convicted of lesser violent crimes like armed robbery or manslaughter and let out after a short sentence. The juvenile system is so dysfunctional it is gamed by career criminals, who let juveniles do jobs that oculd merit hard time.

    I know every situation is different, but I just don't see any justification to let some animal out to prey on us after he has been convicted a couple of times for violent crimes.

    I could care less what europe does.
  3. If the appeals process for individuals on death row were shorter, the population would decrease.

    If we sent the illegal aliens home, we'd have fewer in our prisons.

    If more suspects were shot during the commission of a crime, there would be less population in our prisons.

    We molly cottle our criminals to appease the bleeding heart liberals. If we shipped the libs off to Europe, dropped our criminals into the middle of the ocean our prison population would shrink.
  4. non violent drug offenders are a cash cow for the new prison/corporate investment trusts. hello hedge fund... gotta keep em coming... make the stock holders happy. $$$$$ heaven forbid we decriminalize marijuana... people's portfolios would take a big hit (no pun intended).

    is there a prison ETF yet? imma buyer!

  5. Land of the Free....are saying the land of the free to commit crimes, infringe on the freedoms of others.
  6. you mean infringe on a legitimate hedge funds ability to invest in a growth industry like prison farming.
  7. There is a large percentage of inmates in prisons for non-violent drug possession of marijuana. These people are not infringing on the freedom of others and should not be jailed.
  8. loik


    Freedom requires responsibility!
  9. The lock em up and through away the key crowd and the I don't care what Europe does crowd doesn't understand the question. Nobody is saying criminals shouldn't be punished. What we are asking is why do we have this problem with crime and our prison population that other countries do not have. Why do other nations have the same or lower crime rates as ours without having to lock up as many people as we do? Is there anything we can learn from them? What can we do to make our country safe and at the same time have fewer prisoners? Are our drug laws working? Are our gun laws working? Time to think outside the norm if we are going to improve our country folks.
  10. achilles28


    Legalize drugs.

    That would slash incarceration rates by 30-40%, right there.

    Illegal drugs enrich criminal mafias/gangs/cartels while incentivizing violent crime for broke junkies.

    Make drugs legal and cheap and the gangs/cartels dry up (no money to be made) as do drug-related violent crimes.

    The War on Drugs is just another manufactured threat to take your rights, your property (asset forfeiture seizure is big business - guess who keeps the proceeds?), your money (the new prison economy is worth 40 Billion for correctional related services alone), and justify cushy Government jobs/pensions for all the parasites that make a living sucking off drug laws (judges, lawyers, police, FBI, DEA, prison guards, parole offices, blah blah).

    Follow the money.
    #10     Apr 28, 2008