Saturday, March 01, 2008

One in One-hundred

From the front page of yesterday's Post:
More than one in 100 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government $5 billion more, according to a report released yesterday.

With more than 2.3 million people behind bars, the United States leads the world in both the number and percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving far-more-populous China a distant second, according to a study by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.
This number -- which represents a tripling of the number of incarcerated over the past 20 years -- is driven not primarily by population or a rising crime rate, but by stricter sentencing policies.

Now obviously, crime stats are complicated and likely to be interpreted through an ideological lens, so I won't even try to interpret what this "really" means. The report itself -- which is not too long and an interesting read (download here) -- limits itself to discussions of the expense and societal trade-offs of maintaining such a large prison population. But still, it is a sobering statistic and a reminder that we as a society could certainly be doing better on this front.

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