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Old 02-28-2008, 04:54 PM   #1
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Record-High Ratio Of Americans in Prison

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By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post, February 28



More than 1 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: 1 in 9 black men age 20 to 34 is behind bars. For black women age 35 to 39, the figure is 1 in 100, compared with 1 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."

About 91% of incarcerated adults are under state or local jurisdiction, and the report documents the tradeoffs state governments have faced as they have devoted ever larger shares of their budgets to house them. For instance, over the past two decades, state spending on corrections (adjusted for inflation) increased by 127%, while spending on higher education rose by 21%. For every dollar Virginia spends on higher education, it now spends about 60 cents on corrections. Maryland spends 74 cents on corrections per higher-education dollar.

Despite reaching its latest milestone, the nation's incarcerated population has actually been growing far more slowly since 2000 than during the 1990s, when the spate of harsher sentencing laws began to take effect. These included a 1986 federal law mandating prison terms for crack cocaine offenses that were up to eight times as long as for those involving powder cocaine. In the early 1990s, states across the nation adopted "three-strikes-you're-out" laws and curtailed the discretion parole boards have in deciding when to release an inmate. As a result, between 1990 and 2000, the prison population swelled by about 80%, increasing by as much as 86,000 per year. By contrast, from 2007 to 2008, the prison population increased by 25,000--a 2% rise.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has issued decisions giving judges more leeway under mandatory sentencing laws, and a number of states, including Texas, are seeking to reduce their incarcerated population by adopting alternative punishments. "Some of these [measures] would have been unthinkable five years ago," noted Gelb. "But the bottom line is that states have to balance their budgets."
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:27 PM   #2
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Three-strikes law for the win

Crack is whack, yo

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Old 02-28-2008, 07:08 PM   #3
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Quote:
the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates


WE'RE NUMBER ONE!!!! WE'RE NUMBER ONE!!!

...oh, wait....
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:17 PM   #4
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More than 1 in 100 adult Americans is in jail or prison
We have elections that turn on less than one per cent of the vote.


And we have states that not only prevent those in jail from voting but those that have been in jail. (ex-felons)

So if we can get enough of you people
or those people in the system
> elections will result in the right people being selected.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:16 PM   #5
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Interesting math and very playful with the words...




Now some of you liberals haven't been paying attention. Many in here have been very quick to point out to you all, that prisons are like hotels. You get three square meals a day, roof over your head, TV, and the occasional body cavity search. Of course more are going to prison, come on people wise up and listen to your fellow FYMers.
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Old 02-29-2008, 08:58 AM   #6
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And I'm sure the racial profile in the prisons mirrors that on the outside...right?
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Old 02-29-2008, 10:59 AM   #7
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I see no mention that not everyone "in jail or prison" is in fact "an American." Cheeky that they would use "percentage of residents" instead of "citizens."
For instance, roughly 1/3 of the U.S. federal prison population is composed of non-citizens, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics, with half of those being here illegally.
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Old 02-29-2008, 11:55 AM   #8
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So half of a third are illegal?
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500
I see no mention that not everyone "in jail or prison" is in fact "an American." Cheeky that they would use "percentage of residents" instead of "citizens."
For instance, roughly 1/3 of the U.S. federal prison population is composed of non-citizens, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics, with half of those being here illegally.
Well then, about 1.5 million are good ol' Americans, that makes roughly 5 per 1,000 Americans spending his or her time in prison.
As comparison, some other countries' figures (including non-natives, 2006 figures but changes are marginal):


Immigrants and illegals give or take, you've got some serious problem.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:57 PM   #10
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Originally posted by Vincent Vega


Immigrants and illegals give or take, you've got some serious problem.
Not as big a problem as when as when these folks were out on the street.
It's important to remember that laws like "3 strikes and out" and mandatory sentencing didn't just appear because of new theories being taught in American law schools, they arose because citizens wanted their streets back. We were tired of the revolving doors on prison gates, the lax judges and the soaring crime rates of the 60's and 70's.
Is it perfect? No. Should we rethink drug laws? I would. But career criminals get little sympathy from me.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


Not as big a problem as when as when these folks were out on the street.
It's important to remember that laws like "3 strikes and out" and mandatory sentencing didn't just appear because of new theories being taught in American law schools, they arose because citizens wanted their streets back.
What about your society predisposes so many of your citizens to violence? Is that not a valid question to ask?
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:09 PM   #12
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Originally posted by anitram


What about your society predisposes so many of your citizens to violence? Is that not a valid question to ask?
Don't look for it...you may not like what you find.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


Not as big a problem as when as when these folks were out on the street.
It's important to remember that laws like "3 strikes and out" and mandatory sentencing didn't just appear because of new theories being taught in American law schools, they arose because citizens wanted their streets back. We were tired of the revolving doors on prison gates, the lax judges and the soaring crime rates of the 60's and 70's.
Is it perfect? No. Should we rethink drug laws? I would. But career criminals get little sympathy from me.
Just me or did you miss the point?
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:09 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by CTU2fan
And I'm sure the racial profile in the prisons mirrors that on the outside...right?
I believe the statistic is 1 in 9 African American males in the US between 20-34 years of age is in prison. Just heard it on coverage of this story the other day.
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Old 02-29-2008, 05:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


Not as big a problem as when as when these folks were out on the street.
It's important to remember that laws like "3 strikes and out" and mandatory sentencing didn't just appear because of new theories being taught in American law schools, they arose because citizens wanted their streets back. We were tired of the revolving doors on prison gates, the lax judges and the soaring crime rates of the 60's and 70's.
Is it perfect? No. Should we rethink drug laws? I would. But career criminals get little sympathy from me.
Don't say "we". That's presumptious.

And I don't have a problem with people being prison who deserve to be there - and by 'deserve' I mean those who did something that makes them a threat to society, like murder, rape, molestation, and other violent crimes - but I do have a problem with the ridiculous number of people who are in prison for ridiculous reasons. A mother who served her sixteen year old son and his friends alcohol at a party, who shaperoned the whole thing, who insisted on collecting everyone's keys so they couldn't go anywhere until morning? Some random guy that smoked pot 40 years ago and got put away for it and is still there for it? Some 20 year old who had sex with his or her 17 year old significant other and got put away for it because the significant other was still technically a 'minor'? Just to a name a few. I mean, these kinds of people are clearly not a threat to society, yet so many of these kinds of people have years stolen from their lives because of an overeager and rigid justice system that lacks common sense when it matters the most. I'm sorry. There is NO reason for a mother who served her sixteen year old and his frends booze to spend a single SECOND in prison when she was responsible enough to not leave them alone and to collect their keys. There is NO reason for some pothead from the 60s rot away in prison when literally tens of thousands of people will smoke a joint THIS WEEKEND. There is no reason to consider intercourse between a 20 year old and 17 year old 'rape'. If was a 40 year old and a 17 year, yeah, that would be different, but for a 20 year old and 17 year old, there is hardly anything wrong there. I am just using these as examples. These people are NOT threats to society in any way and there is NO valid reason for them to be in prison AT ALL.

And the three-strikes law is garbage. There are people in prison for LIFE who are only guilty of PETTY THEFT because of this stupid thing. There's a guy who is prison for LIFE because he stole a few videotapes, and another person who is in prison for LIFE because he stole a few golf clubs. Does that sound reasonable to you? That's all this three-strikes law accomplishes. It makes it possible for people who have committed three relatively small crimes get more time than someone who who has committed one BIG, REAL crime that is worse than the first person's three crimes combined. It is ABSURD.

The problem with your mindset is that you are assuming everyone in prison deserves to be there. That, in turn, assumes that the justice system never makes mistakes. That is the fundemental flaw with your line of thinking. The justice system has MAJOR flaws, such as a VERY LOOSE GRASP ON COMMON SENSE, and as such, there are too many people in prison who really don't need to be there at all.
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