Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Ticking Time Bomb: Our Prison System

Okay, here I go again with another "thrusting tiger/devoured human" analogy, only this time it's about real criminals, or at least the ones who can't afford to commit crimes and get away it.

Anyway, if our prison system continues on the same path, we will all be the guy on the elephant down the road. Watch Prison Nation on National Geographic to see the results of the starkly black and white, "get tough on crime" legislation - including the "three strikes law". Ironically, many of the legislators and business leaders who participated in the creation and passing of "get tough on crime" legislation are the same people who, over the last three decades, helped to institutionalize the corruption we - as well as people all over the world - are all paying for right now.

Hidden within our country is a dark, parallel world — a Prison Nation that is inhabited by 2.2 million American convicts. Increasing violence, extreme crowding, rampant drug use and gang warfare are part of daily life.

  • With 2.2 million inmates, America has more prisoners behind bars than any other country on earth. We now have 25 percent of the world's incarcerated, with just five percent of the population.
  • America’s population behind bars has gone up 1,000 percent in the last three decades. Get-tough-on-crime legislation and minimum sentencing laws are blamed for the explosion of inmates. Of all prisoners, 95 percent will be released. Half of them are currently serving a term of two years or less.
  • According to correctional officers, drugs find their way inside even the most secure facilities, but the more secure a facility, the higher the price. Drugs regularly go for up to twenty times their street value behind bars.
  • Among prisoners, 35 percent are drug addicts; 80 percent are drug users. One study found that 34 percent of drug users return to state prison within a year.
  • Since many correction departments have outlawed tobacco in prisons, the going rate for cigarettes in some prisons has skyrocketed from pocket change to $5 per cigarette. A thimbleful of tobacco goes for as much as $50.
  • There are as many as 5,000 prisons or jails in the U.S., employing at least 430,000 people as staff or correctional officers.
  • In 2001, the average cost per inmate in state prisons is $22,650 per year or $62.05 a day. The taxpayer price tag is twice as much as just 15 years ago.
  • The number of female inmates is increasing almost twice as fast as the men’s incarceration rate, tripling in the last decade. At least 40 percent of jailed women have minor children.
  • Inmates in America’s prisons and jails aren’t evenly divided by race; African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population but 41 percent of the overall prison population. And Hispanics have 2.5 times the rate of imprisonment of non-Hispanic whites.
  • More than half of male inmates and roughly two-thirds of female inmates have symptoms of a serious mental illness.
  • The largest population of the mentally ill in America isn’t housed in a hospital… It’s in Los Angeles County Jail, followed by New York’s Rikers Island. In all, one-fourth of all state prison beds are occupied by the mentally ill.
  • "Solitary confinement" has a new name in prison systems: segregation. Single-celled, 23-hour lock-up units in some of these prisons are designed to limit inmates’ movement and contact with other staff or inmates. Officers can care for inmates electronically — from opening an inmate’s door, to shutting off his water, to turning off his lights.
  • More than 80,000 inmates are kept in isolation nationwide. The average stay in some states is now years.
I wonder how many prisoners are serving time for the "heinous" crime of smoking marijuana? Or for taking one too many painkillers?


Anonymous,  19:22  

i saw this on sunday. unbelievable! 120 prisoners with nothing dividing them, literally packed on top of each other like sardines. it would make even sane people go insane, let alone people that have a ton of issues.

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