I recently read these amazing stats in an article by Lisa Sharon Harper.
The United States imprisons more of its own population than any other nation in the world, according to a study released by The Sentencing Project in 2012. We imprison 743 people for every 100,000 residents. Only Rwanda and Russia come close to our rate with 595 and 568 per 100,000, respectively. The next closest is Brazil with 253 per 100,000. China, the world’s largest communist nation, only imprisons 122 people per 100,000.
How can that be? How can the country that so often claims to be the most free on the earth, lead the world by far in the number of incarcerated citizens? Is our population 5 times more criminal than the populations of other countries? Do we really have the most dangerous and criminal population, by far, in the entire world?
I suppose that’s possible, but intuitively it seems unlikely. What seems more likely, to me, is that we have a cultural bias in favor of incarceration and that we put far too many folks behind bars for undeserving reasons.
Cherie and some friends frequently visit the women in our local jail. She always comes out amazed. Most often the women there have been imprisoned for victimless crimes like prostitution or drug possession. They’re crowded into a facility designed to hold far fewer people. It is a sad state of affairs. The fastest growing prison population in America are women. And, of course, American imprisons far more women than any other society on earth. Read more of Cherie’s thoughts on this subject on her blog–HERE.
Both Cherie and Lisa Sharon Harper point out that the prison business is good these days. Over 75,000 prisons in America are operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a publicly owned, for profit, corporation. Over the last year CCA’s stock price has increased by a whopping 31.6%, during a time when the stock market as a whole has languished. I kid you not. Year to date, CCA stock is up an almost incredible 46.2%. Our prison-happy culture is making some people very wealthy.
Something is badly broken.