Posts Tagged ‘incarceration rate’

Prison nation USA

November 6, 2015
lockedup_pie

Click to enlarge.

On any given day, there are 2.4 million people in American prisons, which include 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.

There are countries represented in the United Nations with fewer citizens than the U.S. prison population.

About one-sixth of the total prison population—428,312 people—are people not convicted of a crime, most of them being held in local jails because they can’t make bail.   Writers for Public Policy Iniative, which produced the chart above, said 12 million people cycle through American jails in the course of a year.

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate.  We have 5 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of its prisoners.   I don’t see any justification for this.

The problem is complicated.  I don’t see any one thing—drug law reform, immigration law reform, repeal of federal mandatory prison sentences, an end to “policing for profit”, an end to trying juveniles as adults—that would turn things around.

But the U.S. prison population is slowly diminishing anyhow.  “Complicated” is not the same as “impossible”.

LINK

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie by Peter Wagner and Leah Sakala for the Prison Policy Initiative.  An excellent analysis of the figures.  (Hat tip to Cop in the Hood).

New BJS Report Shows Once Again Declining Incarceration Rates by Dianna Muldrow for Right on Crime, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Why still so many Americans in prison?

February 13, 2015

us-incarceration-and-crime-rates

Why are there so many Americans in prison?  Why did the incarceration rate continue to rise even though the rate of violent crime went down?

I thought for a long time that the main reasons were that so many young men, especially black men, were imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses, and that state laws required judges to impose long sentences even when the crimes were relatively trivial.

But John Pfaff, a Fordham law professor, has done an analysis indicating that, even if you fixed these two things, the U.S. prison population would only decline a little bit.

What then is the problem?  Pfaff said the increased prison population is due to zealous prosecutors.  In 1994, someone who was arrested faced a one change in three that a prosecutor would file felony charges.  By 2008, the odds of a felony charge were two in three.  Statistically, he said, this explains most of the increase.

It is not obvious what to do.  Prosecutors don’t a name for themselves, nor increase their chances of higher office, by exercising restraint.

LINK

Mass incarceration: A provocative new theory for why so many Americans are in prison by Leon Neyfakh for Slate.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

The Imprisoner’s Dilemma by Oliver Roeder for FiveThirtyEight.  (Hat tip to kottke.org)  More statistics and analysis.  [Added 2/14/15]