A newly released report from The Pew Center on the States shows that more than 1 in 100 adult Americans are behind bars.
High five! Great success! /Borat
Here are a few snips from their press release:
For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison—a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, 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.
“For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn’t been a clear and convincing return for public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project. “More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers.”
I if I may be so bold, I will submit what I believe to be the true, root cause of the crime and incarceration problems that the US faces. And that problem is that too many things are designated as "crimes"!
The more activities you criminalize, the more criminals you will have to lock away and pay for! Of course, nobody wants violent psychopaths to be set loose on the streets, but when the majority of people behind bars are in there for non-coercive offenses (things that don't involve lies, theft, or violence), then you obviously have a justice system that is FUBAR - fucked up beyond all recognition.
This country has a history of kooky laws that ruin the lives of people who have not harmed anyone else's. It used to be illegal to drink, and to own gold for crying out loud! And it is still illegal to partake in most of the fun substances, like marijuana, etc.
Speaking of fun substances, take a moment to gawk in shock and awe over this piece of statist logic: Doing certain drugs (or even possessing them) is illegal under the claim that these drugs are harmful to your body and mind. Therefore the state imprisons and immobilizes these self-harmers, effectively ruining their livelihood and productivity completely and comprehensively, in order to stop them from harming themselves. In other words, the state says, "Self-harm is wrong, but it's right for us to harm them in response."
Excuse me, but how the fuck do you expect to solve the problem of lives being ruined by out-harming the self-harmers? At least some organizations in this world still have logical things to say:
The report points out the necessity of locking up violent and repeat offenders, but notes that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the nation’s population at large. Instead, more people are behind bars principally because of a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, imposing longer prison stays on inmates.
The solution to the problem should by now be as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer. Decriminalization! End prohibition! Put the concept of crime back where it belongs by only criminalizing immoral actions. Theft, lying, violence, all forms of coercion should be criminalized, but nothing beyond that.
Then and only then will we have a society where immorality is properly deterred and properly dealt with. Then and only then will we have a society in which moral people admire, rather than fear, their own justice system.
Until that day comes, we will be stuck with a justice system that, despite our best intentions, does us more harm than good.