Prison Nation: One in Every 100 American Adults is in Prison

The Pew Center on the States has just released a new report that finds that one out of 100 adult Americans is in prison--the highest rate in the world. According to the Pew Center press release:

...at the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study. During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates. In addition to detailing state and regional prison growth rates, Pew’s report, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008, identifies how corrections spending compares to other state investments, why it has increased, and what some states are doing to limit growth in both prison populations and costs while maintaining public safety.

As prison populations expand, costs to states are on the rise. Last year alone, states spent more than $49 billion on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before. However, the national recidivism rate remains virtually unchanged, with about half of released inmates returning to jail or prison within three years. And while violent criminals and other serious offenders account for some of the growth, many inmates are low-level offenders or people who have violated the terms of their probation or parole.

On the other hand, Department of Justice data show that as our prisons filled, crime rates plummeted.

Discuss.

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  • ||

    Let's see... more and more criminals are in prison while simultaneously, crime has fallen. How can this be? Oh, could it be that there are only so many scumbags in America and we've locked them all up?

  • stuartl||

    On the other hand, Department of Justice data shows that as our prisons filled, crime rates plummeted.

    Haven't I seen this headline in the NYT? Right next to "Comet to strike Earth! Women and minorities adversely affected."

  • Dave T||

    And what are the crimes all of these people are being locked up over? Any statistics on that?

  • ||

    So, I went to an upper middle class white suburban school district with 300 kids in my class. I'd estimate that at least 5-10 kids in my class were just congenital criminals who should spend as much of their lives in prison as possible. So, 1% doesn't really suprise me.

  • ||

    Clearly we need more prisons and we need to fill them up quickly. This is the best way to reduce crime. I credit the Rockefeller drug laws with making us all much safer. God bless the Rockefellers and the prison complex and the CIA for shipping in all that good cocaine.

  • ||

    OK, LogicMan, then does America just have a lot more scumbags than all the other countries? The ones with lower rates of imprisonment and lower crime rates?

  • eoj||

    We need to build more prisons to lock up the AGW Denialists. Oh shit, did I actually type that?

  • ||

    I love having a fan club.

  • ||

    USA is Number 1! USA is Number 1!

  • Episiarch||

    We need to make more non-violent crimes punishable by prison time, to fill the ranks already filled with dope smoking, drunk driving, gambling, and prostitution. Cross the will of the state, go to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  • ||

    Is Ron Bailey still in the pocket of Big Prison?

  • adrian||

    denmark has pretty much no crime and 55% taxes. socialism is the solution!

    or racial purity and alcoholism.


    i get so confused.

  • ||

    And yet George Bush and Dick Cheney roam free.

  • ||

    Well, joe, to the extent that the crime rates tend to be higher in America, I'd say yes. America does have more scumbags.

    There are lots of plausible reasons for this, such as a history of slavery, history of immigration, individualism, capitalism, bla bla bla... but, all of these "reasons" would just be guesses.

    What is incontrovertible is that if more Americans commit crimes than more Americans are scumbags.

  • ||

    I'm 36 years old. I'm not a hermit or a shut-in, and I've never known anyone that spent even one day in prison. And, I'm not a Mormon. It's not like people are getting rounded up and thrown into prison without cause...

  • ||

    If crack is outlawed, only outlaws will have crack, and be given ridiculously high minimum sentences.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "What is incontrovertible is that if more Americans commit crimes than more Americans are scumbags."

    It's not incontrovertable to a liberal.

    It's all society's fault you see.

    Society has failed them, there is a lack of "social justice" or "economic justice" , blah blah blah, etc. etc.

  • ||

    OK, LogicMan, then does America just have a lot more scumbags than all the other countries? The ones with lower rates of imprisonment and lower crime rates?

    That's the $64,000 question isn't it? I have some ideas. I don't have the answer. Those who claim to have the answer(s) are bald-faced liars (BFLs) or self-deluded fools (SDFs). I'll bet some of each will be commenting today.

  • ||

    Actually, joe and LogicMan, it is pretty hard to make a case that the US has higher crime rates that elsewhere in the world.

    Many other places in the industrialized world have higher rates of theft and assault, while the US tends to have higher homicide rates.

    What I am saying that this is a problem that is hard to sum up with hasty generalizations.

  • ||

    We need to make more non-violent crimes punishable by prison time, to fill the ranks already filled with dope smoking, drunk driving, gambling, and prostitution.

    Since first time drunk drivers generally only spend the night behind bars, and multiple offenders pose a real threat to innocent people, I'm removing that from your list. Then I'm agreeing with your intendend sentiment.

  • zoltan||

    Let's see... more and more criminals are in prison while simultaneously, crime has fallen.

    Check out the actual study. Crime rates have risen in some areas (notable, Kentucky) at rates much smaller than the amount of money being spent on the prison system.

    Not all crimes are equal, and some aren't crimes at all, yet I have not yet found a DOJ study that breaks down violent and non-violent crime statistics. Has anyone found an independent study of this?

  • ||

    It's not like people are getting rounded up and thrown into prison without cause...

    You're new around here, aren't you?

  • ||

    questions:

    1. How many of those inmates are not americans but are in the american prison system?

    2. Are our sentencing guidelines harsher than the rest of the industrialized nations, our crime rate higher, or maybe both?

    3. Of the countries who have fewer people in prison than us, what is their execution rate and does that play a factor (i'm looking a6t you, Singapore)?

  • ||

    Say hi to 1977 for us, Gil.

  • penxv||

    What is incontrovertible is that if more Americans commit crimes then more Americans are scumbags.

    Crimes occur when people break arbitrary written laws, but the term scumbag implies a person that is truly despicable... and whose offenses are moral in nature.

    So it is quite easily controvertible.

  • penxv||

    And no... we haven't locked up all the scumbags.

    Take a look around.

  • ||

    It's not like people are getting rounded up and thrown into prison without cause...

    The laws proscribing drugs, prostitution and gambling and other victimless "crimes" do not represent just cause.

    Shame on anyone who chooses to becomes a law enforcement officer knowing that they will have to enforce this barbarity.

  • ||

    Shame on anyone who chooses to becomes a law enforcement officer knowing that they will have to enforce this barbarity.

    Well, i certainly can't agree with that, A person might be willing to arrest or fine someone for possession if it also means he gets to resolve domestic disputes before they become violent, solve homocide cases, arrest bank robbers, arrest drunk drivers before they kill someone, catch child molestors and child pornographers, ect.

    The drug laws suck, but the foot soldiers don't get to pick and choose which ones they enforce, if you are going to be upset, be upset at the legislators and judges. Same reason most people who are against the war don't spit on the soldiers.

  • zoltan||

    You can be against enforcers without spitting on them. You are relieving them of the personal responsibility you are so willing to give legislators and judges. Of course, I see the argument you're making in that the majority of police officers don't go into it to catch drug users.

  • Nephilium||

    Well... if we want to take this board as a sample size, I've spent time in jail. I expect 99 of you guys to thank me for taking the hit for you now... :)

    And J sub D: first time DUI offenders also usually get 3 days jail time (able to be replaced by the "weekend retreat", where you're locked into a hotel, and told how horrible you are for three days).

    Nephilium

  • ||

    You are relieving them of the personal responsibility you are so willing to give legislators and judges.

    Damn straight I'm relieving them of their personal responsibility.

    It is not the personal responsibility of the cop on the beat to decide what the law is. Do you have any idea what it has looked like throughout history when the men with guns (or spears or whatnot) HAVE been empowered to be a law unto themselves?

  • ||

    I wonder if I can just sign up for a weekend retreat without having to actually go throught the risk of getting the DUI arrest. I kinda like being in a house and told how horrible I am...my wife does that to me and I give her gifts.

  • ||

    Joe
    "Damn straight I'm relieving them of their personal responsibility.

    It is not the personal responsibility of the cop on the beat to decide what the law is. Do you have any idea what it has looked like throughout history when the men with guns (or spears or whatnot) HAVE been empowered to be a law unto themselves?"

    good point Joe, if the troopers in germany hadn't been brainwashed into "just following orders" they might have killed a lot more good people.

  • ||

    You can be against enforcers without spitting on them. You are relieving them of the personal responsibility you are so willing to give legislators and judges.

    I equate "shaming" someone with spitting on them. wouldn't say "shame" to or about returning marines or reserve guards regardless of what i thought about the war. The legislators and judges have discretion on what laws the sponser and what sentences they hand down(although sometimes thats debateble with the judges), LEOs don't get much in the way discretion, especially when they have quotas and dashboard cameras...

    that's all i'm saying, i'll look down on an officer when i see him doing something shameful, i don't see becoming an officer as something shameful though.

  • adrian||

    can't blame cops as they are just following orders. can't blame legislators as they are following the will of the people. can't blame the people because they don't know any better.

    i blame god.

  • ||

    troopers in germany

    do i need to say it?

  • zoltan||

    It is not the personal responsibility of the cop on the beat to decide what the law is.

    I didn't say that was their specific personal responsibility. But they are responsible in what laws they enforce and how they enforce those laws. I'm not suggesting what you are condemning--that police officers take the law into their own hands. I'm saying they are responsible for their actions, including enforcing a law they don't agree with, and if they don't want to be a part of that, they shouldn't.

  • ||

    Shane,

    That's a fair point. Law enforcement officers fight aggressive crime as well. So I should say: Shame on law enforcement officers who choose to work vice.

    if you are going to be upset, be upset at the legislators and judges.

    Yeah, it's the legislators who deserve the vast majority of the blame.

    Same reason most people who are against the war don't spit on the soldiers.

    We can condemn soldiers with out spiting on them. Spiting on anyone can never defended.

  • ||

    Joe,
    You also make some good arguments for gun control. We do need to make sure that average people can't defend themselves against the state monopoly on violence, hopefully the US will wake up soon and fall in line with the UN on this.

  • zoltan||

    I equate "shaming" someone with spitting on them.

    You're putting words in my mouth. I did not say or imply shame. I'm only saying they also have personal responsibility in choosing to enforce laws, even if they did not create those laws. Being opposed to something does not imply shame.

  • ||

    Shane:
    "troopers in germany

    do i need to say it?"

    If you are trying to insinuate that we shouldn't be giving aid to Israel then you are anti-semitic...the same type of anti-semite who helped make the holocaust possible. So I hope your not trying to say that we should never talk about what happened in Germany.

  • zoltan||

    Spiting on anyone can never defended.

    Only unless they had a tiny, tiny fire on them.

  • ||

    We've gotten a lot of dumb trolls over the years, but "C.O." has to go right up near the top, like Mona.

    Hey, C.O., you know who liked to use sarcasm to avoid rational thought about politics? HITLER!

    There, look, I won!

  • ||

    I'm sorry, not MONA! Juanita! I don't why I typed Mona, but it probably has something to do the yearning that everybody who isn't an anarcho-capitalist has for the return of the Nazis.

  • ||

    Cosmotarian Overlord-

    I was refering to godwin...

    zoltan-

    The shame remark was made by Rick Barton who i was orignally responding to, at which point you commenting on my spitting comment, i was attempting to shaw that there is little difference to me of the two.

  • ||

    i apologize for the typos, i'm at work and multitasking.

  • zoltan||

    Shane: Sorry about accusing you of something you didn't do.

  • ||

    Group Hug!

  • ||

    So I should say: Shame on law enforcement officers who choose to work vice.

    Even then i can't agree, what about the officers are genuinely interested in helping drug addicted pimp abused prostitues to break away from the grip of their physically coersive masters? And not all vice has to do with victimless crimes, we do have human traffiking in this country in bed with the sex trade. I believe they also investigate child pornography as well, but i could be mistaken.

  • ||

    This thread is very effectively demonstrating how stupid laws erode respect for the rule of law as a whole.

    Yet another reason to oppose prohibition.

  • ||

    zoltan:

    Only unless they had a tiny, tiny fire on them.

    LOL! But of course now I have to google my comments and add that proviso...

  • ||

    And J sub D: first time DUI offenders also usually get 3 days jail time (able to be replaced by the "weekend retreat", where you're locked into a hotel, and told how horrible you are for three days)."

    That sounds nice compared to here in Colorado. First time DUI(0.08+) / DWAI offenders (0.05-0.07) get:

    A couple nights in jail, unless you can get someone to bond you out.

    A chance to hire a lawyer for the upcoming court case.

    Attendance in a kangaroo court where the deck is stacked against you, because you are a drunk and the breathalyzer is the ultimate arbitor of your drunkeness.

    Court imposed fines, supervision, mandatory alcohol and drug screenings.

    "Workenders" where you get to spend weekends with about a hundred or so other people in a cramped gymnasium in the local jail on a cot, where you get to pick up trash or do lot clean ups.

  • ||

    ...what about the officers are genuinely interested in helping drug addicted pimp abused prostitues to break away from the grip of their physically coersive masters?

    ...

    Of all the ways one might consider undertaking this task, it strikes me that becoming a police officer is about the least effective.

  • ||

    Odds are, then, that one or more of the regular Hit & Run commenters is in prison, right now. Hmmmm.

    Not me, though, unless corporate legal departments count.

  • ||

    Issac-

    agreed, i can't claim to speak for a vice officers, but yeah you got a point.

  • ||

    Shane,

    I'll make myself more clear and put a finer point on it:

    Shame on law enforcement officers who choose to work vice where vice = non-aggressive crime.

    If duties in vice are mixed with fighting some aggressive crime, as with the examples you gave, the law enforcement officers may only absolve themselves from due shame if they believe they are doing enough good in fighting aggressive crime to out weigh the injustice and other harm that they are doing in fighting victimless crime.

    I'm leaving alone for now the problem of the question: Is a wrong mitigated if the wrong-doer (the law enforcement officer in this case) feels that in doing the wrong, they were enabled to do good as well?

  • ||

    You're still assuming that they are operating with complete freedom of choice, Rick. They aren't. Nor should they be.

    Cops need to be bound by the law. That is a good in and of itself, and adhering to that is "doing good." Upholding the status of police as subordinate to the law is a good in and of itself.

  • ||

    joe:

    but it probably has something to do (with) the yearning that everybody who isn't an anarcho-capitalist (is) for the return of the Nazis.

    Could it be? This sounds like you might be completely renouncing the dark side and joining the Rebel Alliance. Come over here, joe. Join us in the group hug.

  • ||

    joe:

    You're still assuming that they are operating with complete freedom of choice, Rick. They aren't. Nor should they be.

    They do choose to be or not to be cops.

    Cops need to be bound by the law. That is a good in and of itself, and adhering to that is "doing good."

    But surely not a good when the law is bad. There is no good in enforcing unfair laws.

  • ||

    Could it be? This sounds like you might be completely renouncing the dark side and joining the Rebel Alliance. Come over here, joe. Join us in the group hug.

    If this was the Sound of Music, this would be the part where I blow the whistle.

    ;-)

    They do choose to be or not to be cops. Yes, but then we have to judge that choice by ALL of the things police do, not just busting hookers.

    But surely not a good when the law is bad. There is no good in enforcing unfair laws. I think it would be better to say that there is, in fact, a good there - the bit I mentioned above about the rule of law - and that there are also evils.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Say hi to 1977 for us, Gil."

    1937, 1977, 2007 or any year in between - it doesn't matter.

    Liberals are still believe in the same socialism they always have.

    And they are still always wrong.

  • ||

    joe,

    Yeah, the good of the rule of law vs the bad of bad law in an interesting consideration.

    Was the bad of enforcing the prohibition against romantic union between Blacks and Whites made any better cuz the prohibition was a law? Perhaps the bad of enforcing it was even worse cuz it was a law...

  • Nephilium||

    zig zag man:

    What I got for my DUI was:

    1) A night in prison, since I wasn't going to call someone at 4:30 AM to bail me out.
    2) 6 Month license suspension
    3) 3 days jail/hotel session (had to be paid for by me which was about $600-$700)
    4) $500 fine
    5) Probation until I went through the hotel session/jail and the "graduation ceremony".
    6) Car impounded (So you had to pay to get it back).
    7) Legal fees

    Nephilium

  • ||

    Rick Barton,

    Let's keep in mind the difference between the moral standing of the policeman, and the moral standing of the law itself/legislators.

    Was the bad of enforcing the prohibition against romantic union between Blacks and Whites made any better cuz the prohibition was a law? The moral standing of a police officer who enforces a law against misecengenation is superior to that of a private individual who takes the same actions of his own accord in the absence of a law.

    Now, the "bad" done may well be the same. Heck, it may be worse, as you say, because of the harm of the law being on the books - but that goes to the morality of the law and the legislators, not the cop.

  • ||

    One third of prisoners are there for drug offenses. So, my idea is:

    1) Keep the violent criminals inside.

    2) Decriminalize drug consumption and dealing. Make individuals responsible for their acts, and put drug traffickers out of business.

    3) Create new prisons where non violent convicts can create businesses, buy and sell products and services, hire other convicts to work for them, put up factories, data centers, or whatever new enterprises they imagine and also pay their keep.

    Convicts who act violently would be immediate expelled to a normal prison.

    This would make them prepare themselves for their release as productive members of society, and also significantly reduce prison expenses.

    Enrique

  • Prickley||

    Enrique

    That's called rehabilitation and is currently considered a 4 letter word.

  • ||

    joe:

    If this was the Sound of Music, this would be the part where I blow the whistle.

    ;-)


    Not that I don't thing that I can infer your meaning, but I don't really recall....now I have a good reason to watch it again.

  • ||

    ...Not that I don't think..

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