Tuesday, November 22, 2011

U.S. Dominates the World in Incarceration Rates

Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg News wrote an interesting piece entitle, “A Country of Inmates” published recently in The New York Times. Although the column covers a lot of ground the following excerpts provide a vivid picture of prison overcrowding in the United States.

Hunt wrote:

The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars, almost one in every 100 Americans. The U.S. prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and one in nine black children has a parent in jail.

Proportionally, the United States has four times as many prisoners as Israel, six times as many as Canada or China, eight times as many as Germany and 13 times as many as Japan.

With just a little more than four percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for a quarter of the planet’s prisoners and has more inmates than the leading 35 European countries combined. Almost all the other nations with high per capita prison rates are in the developing world.

The prison explosion hasn’t been driven by an increase in crime. In fact, the crime rate, notably for violent offenses, is dropping across the United States, a phenomenon that began about 20 years ago.

Hunt continued:

The latest F.B.I. figures show that murder, rape and robberies have fallen to an almost half-century low; to be sure, they remain higher than in other major industrialized countries.

There are many theories for this decline. The most accepted is that community police work in major metropolitan areas has improved markedly, focusing on potential high-crime areas. There are countless other hypotheses, even ranging to controversial claims that more accessible abortion has reduced a number of unwanted children who were more likely to have committed crimes.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/us/21iht-letter21.html?src=recg&pagewanted=print

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