The U.S. Prison Population – By The Numbers (w/Infographic)

By Joe Wright

It has been well documented that despite the platitudes suggesting that the United States is the beacon of freedom, it is actually the location with the most filled cages of human beings. The capital of this Gulag is currently Louisiana, where the incarceration rate is nearly 5 times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s. (Source)

America holds 25% of the world’s prison population and only 5% of its overall population. The number of prisoners held in private prisons has risen dramatically over the past 10 years from 2,000 housed in 5 private prisons, to more than 60,000 housed in 100. It is a number expected to rise to 360,000 prisoners over the next decade. (Source) Moreover, as the economy declines, there has even been a revival of debtors prisons, formally abolished in the early 1800s. Even more troubling is the heightened criminalization of children for behavior which previously was considered merely a nuisance, not something worthy of handcuffs and the Big House.

The U.S. prison business has become the essence of predatory corporatism: it privatizes profits and socializes losses. This combination has led to a situation where correctional facilities have very little incentive to correct behavior, but every incentive to ensure that new bodies arrive as fast as possible and keep them in a state of indentured servitude. The Infographic below dissects the world’s largest prison population, offering a stark condemnation of the “Land of the Free.”

One statistic to note is that actual violent crime and property crimes have been declining, but the prison population continues to explode. So where are all of these new “criminals” coming from?


Boston University Online Masters in Criminal Justice

The numbers are the numbers, but I personally would take issue that the #1 solution would be treatment programs as intimated above — many of these inmates never should have arrived in the first place. The first solution would be to eliminate the for-profit nature of the growing prison Gulag.There is certainly a place for treatment programs of all types that aim to reduce the rate of recidivism, especially for violent criminals. But until this predatory system that trades bodies for dollars is abolished, it will only mean further enrichment from solutions within the very same system that created the problem in the first place.

A nation that still purports to be the Land of the Free simply cannot continue to say that with a straight face when it has literally invested in slavery. A predatory system — even if some believe it only preys on other predators — can only lead to a ruined social landscape like that of Louisiana. If left unchecked, this predator is guaranteed to consume any part of the American landscape that buys into placing a monetary value on an expanding prison slave system.

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