And even if they don’t that’s just the cost of keeping us safe. After all, they’re mostly dangerous illegal immigrants and cannabis users.
The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population and 23% of the world’s prison population.
Compared to its democratic, advanced market economy counterparts, the United States has more people in prison by several orders of magnitude.
Although crime rates have decreased since 1990, the rate of imprisonment has continued to increase.
Many criminal justice experts have found that the increase in the incarceration rate is the product of changes in penal policy and practice, not changes in crime rates.
Changes in drug policy have had the single greatest impact on criminal justice policy.
Mandatory minimum sentences for low level crack-cocaine users are comparable (and harsher in certain cases) to sentences for major drug dealers.
In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession and one out of five were for sales. The crime history for three-quarters of drug offenders in state prisons involved non-violent or drug offenses.
African Americans, who make-up 12.4 percent of the population, represent more than half of all prison inmates, compared to one-third twenty years ago.
Although African Americans constitute 14 percent of regular drug users, they are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56 percent of persons in state prisons for drug crimes.
African Americans serve nearly as much time in federal prisons for drug offenses as whites do for violent crimes.
In 2006, states spent an estimated $2 billion on prison construction, three times the amount they were spending fifteen years earlier.
The combined expenditures of local governments, state governments, and the federal government for law enforcement and corrections total over $200 billion annually.
The incarceration rate has significant costs associated with the productivity of both prisoners and ex-offenders. The
economic output of prisoners is mostly lost to society while they are imprisoned.
Negative productivity effects continue after release. This wage penalty grows with time, as previous imprisonment can reduce the wage growth of young men by some 30 percent.
Prisons are absorbing the cost of housing the nation’s mentally ill. The number of mentally ill in prison is nearly five times the number in inpatient mental hospitals.
On average, two out of every three released prisoners will be rearrested and one in two will return to prison within three years of release.
The American prison system does not concern itself with protecting people’s rights. Its about punishing people. What was once meant to protect society from violent criminals now deals mainly in inflicting punishment on people for disobeying the law with complete disregard for how out-of-proportion that punishment may be or how absurd the law. And don’t even try to suggest replacing punishment with rehabilitation for non-violent drug users. You’ll just be accused of being a bleeding heart liberal or an anarchist. We have to have law and order, after all – just don’t stop to ask what it is exactly that those laws accomplish or what it is that we have ordered ourselves towards. You may have to be punished.