The United States of America truly does lead the world in many ways. For example, we hold the number one spot considering all countries in the world – imprisoning the largest percentage of our population.
The Federal Government has increased prison populations by 6.3 percent in 2004. The State of Texas has the most people behind bars, according to the Houston Chronicle.
To summarize, we are imprisoning people, and not letting them out, at a rate that is increasing our prison populations by 900 more people each week.
In 2003 one in every 140 people were in prison. In 2004 one in every 138 people were in prison.
Is it possible we might look at the causes of this, rather than increasing our ability to punish people? And if we look at the causes, can we look at curing the causes, rather than medicating, either literally or metaphorically, our population into a half-dead slumber?
I created this US Population, Crime and Imprisonment chart from data gathered from the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics mostly.
It should be noted that the largest and fastest growing group of people in prison are drug-related criminals – mostly arrests made for marijuana. These people represent a huge portion of the people incarcerated, often with mandatory sentences. The DOJ does not make it easy to see this, lumping people into categories of property and violent crime categories only (subdivided with more detail, of course). Drug crimes are more paternalistic than criminal.
It is a true waste of our money, and a waste of many people’s lives. Click on the graph if you’d like a bigger PDF version to view.