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USA continues to lead the world in imprisonment

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  • thekoba@aztecfreenet.org
    The wealthiest country on earth also leads the world in imprisonment of its own citizens, both in proportion of its population and in absolute numbers.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2004
      The wealthiest country on earth also leads the world in imprisonment of its
      own citizens, both in proportion of its population and in absolute numbers.
      Ironically, this country is also well known for boasting of its freedom.
      The following article, attributed to Connie Cass of the Associated Press,
      appeared on page A24 of the Friday, May 28, 2004 edition of the Arizona

      --Kevin Walsh


      Washington--America's inmate population grew by 2.9 percent last year, to
      almost 2.1 million people, with one of every 75 men living in prison or jail.

      The inmate population continued its rise despite a fall in the crime rate
      and many states' efforts to reduce some sentences, especially for low-level
      drug offenders.

      The report issued Thursday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice
      Statistics attributes much of the increase to get-tough policies enacted
      during the 1980s and '90s, such as mandatory drug sentences, "three strikes
      and you're out" laws for repeat offenders, and "truth in sentencing" laws
      that restrict early releases.

      Whether that's good or bad depends on who is asked.

      "The prison system just grows like a weed in the yard," said Vincent
      Schiraldi, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, which pushes
      for a more lenient system.

      Without reforms, Schiraldi said, prison populations will continue to grow
      "almost as if they are on autopilot, regardless of their high costs and
      disappointing crime-control impact."

      But attorney-general John Ashcroft said the report shows the success of
      efforts to take hard-core criminals off the streets.

      "It iss no accident that violent crime is at a 30-year low while prison
      population is up," Ashcroft said. "Violent and recidivist criminals are
      getting tough sentences while law-abiding Americans are enjoying unprecedented

      There were 715 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents at midyear in 2003,
      the report found. The nation's incarceration rate tops the world, according
      to the Sentencing Project, another group that promotes alternatives to
      prison. That compares with a rate of 169 per 100,000 residents in Mexico,
      116 in Canada and 143 in England and Wales.

      Russia's prison population, which once rivaled the United States', has
      dropped to 584 per 100,000 because of prisoner amnesties in recent years,
      the group said.

      The U.S. inmate population in 2003 grew at its fastest pace in four years.
      The number of inmates increased 1.8 percent in state prisons, 7.1 percent
      in federal prisons and 3.9 percent in local jails.

      In 2003, 68 percent of prison and jail inmates were members of racial or
      ethnic minorities, the government said. An estimated 12 percent of all
      Black men in their 20s were in jails or prisons, as were 3.7 percent of
      Hispanic men and 1.6 percent of Anglo men in that age group, according to
      the report.

      The report also said:

      The number of women in state and federal prisons grew by 5 percent, compared
      with a 2.7 percent increase for men. Still, men greatly outnumber women:
      1.36 million to 100,102.

      The inmate population in 10 states increased at least 5 percent.

      Only nine states logged a decrease in prison population.

      "I have an acquaintance from Fallujah. He tells me, 'The good thing we have
      that you don't in Baghdad is that you do not see any American soldiers on our
      streets. We do not allow that in Fallujah.'"
      --Hussein al-Musawi, quoted on p. A20, 4/3/04 edition The Arizona Republic
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