How did we get to mass incarceration?

More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that the U.S. puts more people in prison, at a higher rate, than any other country in the world.  For comparison, look at this map from Vox:

global incarceration rates

You can see in the chart below (courtesy of The Sentencing Project) that the U.S. prison population was not always like this.  Putting more than two million people in prison is a trend that only occurred in the past thirty years.  Harsh mandatory minimums were enacted again an again in the 1980s and 1990s, and resulted in a huge growth in the prison population:

prison population

Reducing the prison population has been shown to not pose any threats to the public and to save money.  States that have reduced their prison populations in many cases have actually seen crime drop:

less prison no more crime

Despite this, many Americans are still misinformed about crime in the country:

america crime reality

Criminal justice reform is clearly needed, particularly when considering drug crimes. Currently, roughly half of the people in federal prisons are there for drug offense.  The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a current bill in Congress that would begin to move towards meaningful reform.

federal prisoners

Reform is needed for a number of reasons, the most distressing of which are the racial disparities that currently exist in the U.S. criminal justice system.  African-American men currently face a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in their lifetime, compared to a 1 in 17 chance for white men.  Latinos, with a rate of 1 in 6, also suffer at the hand of the largest criminal justice system in the world.  Statistics point to undeniable racism here.  White Americans and African-Americans use illegal drugs at very similar rates, but are hardly arrested at the same rate:

drug use and arrests

If you are interested in learning more about mass incarceration and what you can do to end it, consider our page on the issue: Criminal justice reform policies

Or read the full article that these sources originated from: Vox.com on mass incarceration

For a more in-depth experience, consider participating in The New Jim Crow Project with a small group or Sunday school class in your church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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