Anyone interested in prison reform is aware the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. Even though our country is large, only five percent of the world’s population inhabit the US. Incredibly, the country’s jails and prisons house 25 percent of all the inmates on the planet. An astounding one-quarter of all of the world’s prisoners are spending time behind bars in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, every 33 adults in the U.S. are incarcerated in America’s jails or prisons.
A major contributor to these outrageous statistics, which have doubled since 1990 is the “war on drugs” that has transformed into “the war on indigent people.”
The reasons for incarceration discrimination do not end with economic status. People of color are disproportionately locked-up for minor offenses. A significant factor for this social ill is a lingering policy that has sent countless offenders to prison for years. A small amount of crack cocaine found in the pockets of poor blacks has sent them to prison for decades. However, middle or upper-class whites will endure a mere “slap on the wrist” for cocaine offenses.
More people are behind bars because of drugs than murder, rape or any other violent offense and it is costing tax-payers more than $50 billion a year to keep this atrocity going.
There is only one entity that is benefitting from this out of control economic disaster. The prison industry.
Business moguls have gotten wind of the mass incarceration problem in the U.S. and are making profits off of a deteriorating situation.
There is good news about the condition of America’s criminal justice system. Both conservatives and liberals are agreeing that the time has come to revamp the prison system. Everyone is on the same page about how mass incarceration is costing the country too much money. For some reason when an out of control problem hits people’s pocketbooks, collaboration happens. When incarcerating a prisoner for a year reaches the same cost as student tuition at Harvard University, it is time to make a change.
Realization that American prisons are being financed to perpetuate social insufficiency, recidivism, and desperateness has caused legislation to reconsider the high cost of incarceration. The result is crime rates have decreased and the public is beginning to support non-violent offender reform as opposed to long-term prison sentences.
Over the last three years prison doors have been shutting on the outside instead of the inside. The prison population is not large enough to fill America’s prisons and they are gradually going out of business. From academics, progressive law enforcement groups, innovative rehabilitation programs and victim crime advocates to even fundamentalists, all have been struggling to repair our broken justice system, which has turned into a perpetual misery machine.
America’s mass incarceration dilemma has forced society to take a long hard look at what can be done to transform criminals into productive citizens.
Even states that use punitive law-and-order approaches in an attempt to conquer crime are now desperate enough to embrace tolerant rehabilitation programs once thought of as bleeding heart liberalism alternatives only a few years ago.