Thursday, February 28, 2008

1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

Not exactly on immigration but perhaps apropos to nativism and hatred, The New York Times reports that we are incarcerating more people today than at any point in our history. We also incarcerate more people than any other country.

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 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are. …

It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.

About one in nine state government employees works in corrections, and some states are finding it hard to fill those jobs. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone in 2006.

"1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars, New Study Says," by Adam Liptak, The New York Times, (February 28, 2008)

And when we have finished incarcerating everyone who will be left to guard the jails? What does it say about us as a society that we choose to incarcerate so many of our fellow citizens? No other industrialized society comes close to incarcerating as many of our own as does the United States. Is there a willful blindness borne of the fact that the imprisoned cannot be seen or heard? Are we able to sleep more soundly at night knowing that so many voiceless human beings waste away behind bars? Does the high incarceration rate help us to progress as a community?

Pew Report Link:

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