Guess which prison nation has a quarter of the world’s inmates?

Aw, damn, I can’t fool you guys, can I? Ding-ding-ding, the winner is us!

The Atlantic — The U.S. incarceration rate has more than quadrupled since 1980. It’s now the highest in the world, just ahead of Russia and Rwanda. It is estimated that approximately 2.3 million Americans are now behind bars. This is about one-fourth of all the incarcerated people on Earth, though the U.S. represents only one-twentieth of the world’s population. When the figures for those under probation and parole are added, about 1 in 18 U.S. men is under some form of monitoring or control. The figure for blacks is 1 in 11.

Why the insane incarceration rates in the home of the free? Mandatory sentencing and the War on Some Drugs. The good news for the prison industry is even when inmates are released, we’ve made sure their lives are ruined forever. Which helps insure a constantly recycling supply of repeat offenders.


  1. smrnda says

    I was talking with a student from China a few weeks ago – she was utterly shocked by number of people in prison in the US. When this is shocking people from the PRC, we’ve gone way too far.

    Part of this is driven by $$$, but a lot of it is that we have this repressive, puritanical and religious culture that’s dominant in the US which is driven by a desire for a punitive society, where even when punishment is a financial loser its ‘cultural value’ is so high that many people deem it worth it.

  2. Pen says

    You should look into the fact that people in US prisons are being made to labour for free or very nearly. There are corporate groups who actively campaign to keep the incarceration rate high so they can get free labour. It is very, very hard to boycott the products of prison labour because it’s so deeply embedded in production chains.

  3. thisisaturingtest says

    And folks want to privatize the prison system here; what do you suppose will happen to the incarceration rate when it’s driven purely by the profit motive, when something that is a negative for the nation becomes a plus for corporations? (Not that it’s not already, as Pen says, to some degree a plus for them)

  4. left0ver1under says

    It’s not just those who profit from the prison industry who want this. Ex-cons are barred from voting for long periods of time after release from prison – sometimes, their right to vote is permanently violated. Many of those incarcerated (due to a biased court system) are non-white. Think about who benefits from keeping them out of the voting booths…the same people who wanted to take voters off the lists in the last few US elections.

    As the US police state expands, it seems there are more and more “crimes” that people are convicted of, and can no longer vote. The US is becoming a plutocracy where only the wealthy (re: those who can afford to pay lawyers and cops) will have a right to vote.

  5. left0ver1under says

    Whoops, I forgot to include this link on states and voting rights of ex-cons:

    You’ll note the the south and heavily religious states, especially states with the largest numbers of Blacks and Latinos, have the most restrictive rules on ex-cons voting, while northern and “liberal” states have the least restrictive anti-voting rules. The only states the buck the trend are Washington and Utah.

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