Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prison Population

Can this really be true?

I don't believe everything I read on the internet, not by a long shot, so I figured this should be checked out.  According to The Sentencing Project, the State of Georgia currently has 92,599 people in prison, 479 per 100,000 persons.  Meanwhile, according to Wikipedia, the prison population of England and Wales in October 2011 was 87,673.  So, if anything, the map is an understatement.

The Sentencing Project lists 231,186 prisoners in the State of Texas, and BBC News claims there are 214,450 prisoners in Mexico.  That's close, I guess. Similarly, Louisiana has 71,311 prisoners and Japan has  79,052.  That's a random check of three random states using three different data sources.  The equivalents aren't exact, but the numbers seem legit.

The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails, a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.  Changes in sentencing law and policy, not increases in crime rates, explain most of the increase in the national prison population. These changes have significantly impacted racial disparities in sentencing, as well as increased the use of “one size fits all" mandatory minimum sentences that allow little consideration for individual characteristics.  Sentencing policies brought about by the "war on drugs" resulted in a dramatic growth in incarceration for drug offenses. At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge comprise half of the prison population, while the number of drug offenders in state prisons has increased thirteen-fold since 1980. Most of these people are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.

It's time to stop the madness.

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