America Leads the World in Incarcerations
The New York Times has a pretty in-depth article on America’s staggeringly high rates of incarceration.
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.
Read the whole piece–it’s a rather interesting and well balanced discussion. I’m on the record as being opposed to a system of incarceration, though I will readily admit that for violent offenders I am not sure that there is a better alternative to prison, however much I might loathe it. That said, the sheer number of incarcerations for non-violent offenses in this country is pretty horrible, and I do think that it would be well worth the expenditure in resources to build more workable alternatives to prison for non-violent offenses–restitution, house arrest, community service, other ideas not tried, etc.
(Link via Matthew Yglesias)