According to the below Washington Post article, more than one in a hundred Americans is in jail. (That’s awful) 11%of black men between the ages of 20-34 are in jail. (Dayum!) What’s worse it what they could be doing otherwise (in the best scenario, of course), like going to college, being gainfully employed, getting married…
More than one in 100 adult Americans is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released today.
With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.The ballooning prison population is largely the result of tougher state and federal sentencing imposed since the mid-1980s. Minorities have been hit particularly hard: One in nine black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars. For black women age 35 to 39, the figure is one in 100, compared with one in 355 white women in the same age group.While studies generally find that imprisoning more offenders reduces crime, the effect is influenced by changes in the unemployment rate, wages, the ratio of police officers to residents, and the share of young people in the population.In addition, when it comes to preventing repeat offenses by nonviolent criminals — who make up about half of the incarcerated population — alternative punishments such as community supervision and mandatory drug counseling that are far less expensive may prove just as or more effective than jail time.Florida, which nearly doubled its prison population over the past 15 years, has experienced a smaller drop in crime than New York, which, after a brief increase, reduced its number of inmates to below the 1993 level.
“There is no question that putting violent and chronic offenders behind bars lowers the crime rate and provides punishment that is well deserved,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project and one of the study’s authors. “On the other hand, there are large numbers of people behind bars who could be supervised in the community safely and effectively at a much lower cost — while also paying taxes, paying restitution to their victims, and paying child support.” Continue reading