Skip to comments.Why Is the U.S. Prison Population So Large?
Posted on 01/13/2013 10:41:06 AM PST by redreno
The United States houses more human beings in prisons than any other country, both in terms of actual numbers and in relation to population size. The U.S. prison population began to grow dramatically in the 1970s. Professor Daniel DAmico examines the data behind the alarming increase in the number of prisoners in the United States and finds that much of the growth in the last 40 years has been driven by the war on drugs.
From 1980 to 1990, the total U.S. prison population more than doubled. In that same time, the proportion of people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes rose from 7.5 percent to 24 percent. Prof. DAmico says this statistic actually understates the influence of the drug war on the prison population because drug prohibition also increases violent crime by leading to the formation of gangs and cartels. By 2000, the prison population had nearly doubled again, but the proportion of prisoners due to drug-related offenses remained similar.
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Thought you might quote a different statistic. Sometime in the last few years, either the WaPo or NYT had an article pondering the deep mystery of why, with crime rates dropping, we still kept large numbers of people in prison. They simply could see no connection between large numbers of criminals locked away and the streets becoming safer.
A large number of people in prison is not in itself a bad thing. The best cure for recidivism is capital punishment, but long prison terms at least delay it.
the dirty little secret is that petty crimes don’t go to a jury but usually the perpetrator is offered a plea bargain for a lesser charge. One of the favorite charges is drug related crime, which are easier to prove (when drugs are found on a guy) than going to court and getting someone to testify against them for the real crime of assualt and battery or theft (especially since often these witnesses fear retaliation and don’t show up).
The headline question is obviously loaded. The question implies the answer that the population is too large.
There should be no discussion of this issue until the form of the question is agreed on. The proper question in my opinion is, Is the prison population of the US as large as it needs to be?
I also have to think of the decision made in the 60s that mental institutions were bad. As a result “insane asylums” were closed and all the crazies were let go on the streets.
We now have a huge potion of the prison population that can only be described as mentally ill.
This is also the problem we are dealing with right now with mentally illl people getting fire arms. The laws changed so that no matter how whacked out a person is ... no matter how obviously unhinged .... you cannot be taken in until you commit a crime.
Adam Lanza, a raving maniac, had he lived, would now be in the prison population. So we have fewer lunatic asylums and much larger prisons IMO.
It makes for a handy argument (”if we’d only legalize drugs our prisons would be half as full”) but it makes as much sense as so many other arguments made in the political arena - pick your favorite one - you can raise revenue by raising taxes, if guns were illegal criminals would gladly give them up, welfare doesn’t create a dependency class, if we only gave up our weapons our enemies would give up theirs etc. etc.
All basically examples of sophomoric thinking.
...So when you hear of nonviolent offenders remember some just didn't get caught or found guilty of being violent..."
Fixed it. ;)
Would a real war on drugs carried out by our armed forces happen only on foreign soil, or also in the USA?
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