Incarceration Nation

(También en Español)

News of Note: Zakaria: Incarceration nation

“Here are the facts. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and ­Britain – with a rate among the ­highest – has 153….

“Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession….

“Partly as a result, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.

What justifiable reason is there for America to have a higher prison population than any other country on earth? Outrage can be the only response.

How much longer will this for-profit destruction of human lives continue before the whole country realizes what’s going on?

Revealing statistics like these might just wake up the public, as more and more activists are working to give prisoners in this country and these issues a voice that will soon be harder to ignore.

Creative Commons image by: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos