There is one thing that this country does exceedingly well (besides wage war): incarcerate our own. Where else would you find private industry involved in running prisons? Where else would corrections be considered a growth industry?
The rate of incarceration in the USA — 702 prisoners per 100,000 residents — continues to be the highest in the world. An estimated 4.8% of all black males in the population were in prison or jail. About 1.7% of Hispanics and 0.6% of whites were incarcerated.
Some interest groups said the rising prison numbers, combined with generally declining crime rates, show that the tougher laws and sentencing policies of the 1980s and 1990s are working.
"We're incarcerating the right people — the ones who are committing crimes," said Susan Blake, spokeswoman for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a Sacramento, group that supports strong criminal sanctions.
But a prison reform group argued that continued enforcement of tough anti-crime laws fail to take into account the recent declines in crime.
"The relentless increases (are) the legacy of an entrenched infrastructure of punishment that has been embedded in the criminal justice system over the last 30 years," said Malcolm Young, director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., group that lobbies for alternatives to prison.
It is telling that FBI figures show a 33.4% decrease in violent crime and a 25.4% decrease in property crime in the US between 1992-2001. Crime is down, and yet our prison population is at an all-time high. Not only is incarceration big business, it is also an effective way for politicians to show that they are "tough on crime". I'm not going to rail against our criminal justice system- other than to wonder why incarceration seems to be our best (and only) option? It is easier to lock someone up and throw away the key, but is warehousing criminals the most effective way to combat crime? Or is it simply the path of least resistance?