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Thursday, February 28, 2008

A New Record

posted by on February 28 at 11:18 AM

From today’s NYT.

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

We also bear the distinction of the world’s leading jailer, according to this Human Rights Watch report released in December, meaning we beat out progressive nations such as Libya, Iran, and China. One of the most glaring reasons our incarceration rate is outpacing population growth is—you knew I’d go there—our drug laws. Drug use rates have remained fairly steady over the past 25 years, but arrest rates for low-level drug offenses have nearly tripled.


FBI Reports from the Department of Justice.

Land of the free, my ass.

RSS icon Comments


At least we have our thoughts. For now.

Posted by Mr. Poe | February 28, 2008 11:24 AM

Future headline:

99 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

Posted by Original Andrew | February 28, 2008 11:26 AM

A GRAPH! How exciting! There aren't enough graphs on Slog.

Posted by Katelyn | February 28, 2008 11:27 AM

Brotha, I knew you was would go there!

Posted by Kris | February 28, 2008 11:37 AM

Check out the Prison Uniforms, 2007 here:

Posted by NaFun | February 28, 2008 11:47 AM

I blame Bill Clinton.

Posted by Laural | February 28, 2008 12:06 PM

Okay, just a question; is it our drug laws putting these people behind bars, or our justice system? Because the two are different in noticeable ways. For instance, if it was our drug laws putting people behind bars, there would be just as many white kids as there would be minorities sitting there for possession. However, if it is our racist justice system, our drug laws are merely the weapons they yield. Or are we all assuming that only minorities do drugs?

Posted by Marty | February 28, 2008 12:13 PM

This is a voting rights issue.
Our side loses a critical margin due to loss of voting rights due to drug possession laws.

Posted by unPC | February 28, 2008 12:31 PM

How many are in for jaywalking?

Posted by DOUG. | February 28, 2008 12:35 PM

But, but, but.... if all those people we not locked up, they'd be on the freeway with me at rush hour!

Besides, I can pay 0.35$ an hour to have them build stuff for my business when they are in jail, it's like NAFTA but without the transportation costs!

Posted by Colton | February 28, 2008 12:52 PM

It's a combination of the justice system and the drug laws. As the frequently-disdained-by-slog Presidential candidate Ron Paul says, the biggest racist laws in the country are the drug laws. Actual black drug users number in the teens in percentile, but those convicted of drug law violations are well above 50%. Many "conservatives" bitch and moan about the "nanny state", but they don't realize that their narrow-minded mentality of morality is pushing the envelope of the very object of their disdain. You can tell very few "conservatives" were English majors, otherwise they would recognize the meaning of Irony.

Posted by PJ | February 28, 2008 12:54 PM

I forget the name of the case now, but it was decided in the early '70s that cops could pat down people at traffic stops for weapons, and if they found ANY sort of felonious paraphenalia it was admissible in court.

Posted by Laural | February 28, 2008 2:04 PM

now that i quit using illegal drugs i think the penalties should be increased. if i start taking illegal drugs again, then they should be legalized.

Posted by the average american | February 28, 2008 2:12 PM

If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest watching American Drug War:

Posted by Jason | February 28, 2008 2:38 PM

Not surprisingly, that upward trend for simple possession also corresponds with the roughly twenty year-long explosion in the now mostly privately owned for-profit incarceration industry.

As with any Capitalist System (oh Gawd, I'm gonna try real hard not to start sounding like Chaz here), growth is the key to success, which means simply, you gotta have more prisoners coming into the system in order to justify creating new facilities, and therefore raking in more income, most of which is presumably paid by the public sector.

And of course the most obvious way to continue to grow the industry is to create a demand for more prisons, by increasing the supply of offenders requiring incarceration. Hence, the gradual introduction over time of mandatory sentencing; harsher sentences for drug offenses, particularly those that target low-income and minority populations who are going to be less able to afford effective legal council; and fueling of a general perception in society that "crime is rampant", which runs counter to statistical evidence that violent crime is, in fact, consistently trending downward.

No doubt the Incarceration Industry initially sold the concept to local and state governments on the pretext that the private sector could manage prison populations more efficiently, and for less cost, which may have been true at the outset - and may even still be true today in a limited context - but the industry's need to continually grow and expand means as taxpayers we're probably spending ten times in total costs today what we would have been paying had incarceration remained solely a function of the private sector.

With the inevitable result being that the privatized incarcertation system is now a $50 Billion industry.

That figure alone should tell you pretty much all you need to know as to why the good ole' U.S. of A. now incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation on the planet.

Posted by COMTE | February 28, 2008 2:49 PM

sorry, the end of paragraph #4 should read: "...had incarceration remained solely a function of the PUBLIC sector."

Posted by COMTE | February 28, 2008 2:52 PM

@6. Laural. You're totally right. Incarceration rates started to jump under Clinton's presidency. Does that imply that Hillary will follow the same policies? Or reverse them?

@15, COMTE. You're totally right.

Privatized incarceration facilities will always seek to increase incarceration. Incarceration is far, far more "profitable" than rehabilitation.

Yay! Capitalism and privatization!

Corporate Gulags for everyone!

And now, I defer to Ambrose Bierce.

LAND, n. A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
Posted by treacle | February 29, 2008 12:25 AM

@1, Mr. Poe.
The only right we ever, exclusively retain... in the face of all other abuse... is the right to choose our own attitude.

There is nothing else. Not even our thoughts.

The Manipulated Mind

Posted by treacle | February 29, 2008 12:29 AM

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