The United States is now the number one nation of the incarcerated in the world. The Pew Center on the States released a new report that one in 99 Americans is a prisoner in the nation’s overcrowded jail and prison system.
The Pew Report:
The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including the far more populous nation of China. At the start of the new year, the American penal system held more than
2.3 million adults. China was second, with 1.5 million people behind bars, and Russia was a distant third with 890,000 inmates, according to the latest available figures.
Beyond the sheer number of inmates, America also is the global leader in the rate at which it incarcerates its citizenry, outpacing nations like South Africa and Iran. In Germany, 93 people are in prison for every 100,000 adults and children. In the U.S, the rate is roughly eight times that, or 750 per 100,000.
We have argued here before that the USA is an unequal, Racist, Incarceration Nation where the system of justice unfairly punishes those with dark skin over those with lighter coloring and now the Pew Report backs us up with new prison data:
If you’re a young Black Man in America — watch your back! Those coming after you may not be men in white sheets, but rather justices in black robes.
When we live in fear and choose punishment over reform, it is the states that must pay the price in building bigger prisons and incarcerating more of the general population in order to keep the perceived peace in a land where toting handguns is more precious than life and, where we pray for a reason to shoot first, and ask questions later.
The major horrifying indicator in the trend toward imprisoning bodies
— instead of freeing minds — is demonstrated in the 127% states rise in spending for corrections compared to a 21% increase for higher education.
Pew argues money spent on prisons would be better invested in early childhood education to reform the young mind away from a life of criminality:
Corrections spending also competes with the funding many states want to devote to early childhood education, one of the most proven crime prevention strategies. Research shows that attending a high-quality pre-kindergarten influences a child’s success both in school and in life.One rigorous study that followed severely disadvantaged children into adulthood showed that participation in pre-kindergarten dramatically reduced participation in juvenile and adult crime, and increased high school graduation, employment and earnings, with a total benefit-cost ratio of 16 to 1.
Looking to the future for solutions, the Pew Report provides several suggestions for easing mandatory imprisonment and in creating behavioral changes before incarceration becomes the only punishment available for purchase.
The states are bleeding prison blues — and the only way out of an endless cycle of meaningless punishment and mindless reform is through educating the young mind and finding solid and effective diversion processes on the outside before imprisoning the body on the inside.
Space, time and budget bashing will tell if the national incarceration rate will drop or rise even further as we wonder if fear and longing will continue to press away thoughtful mindfulness.