CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES
United States is the leading incarcerator in the world, ahead of
countries such as China and Russia, holding more than 2.3 million
people in state and federal prisons, and in local jails. Thousands
more are living on probation or parole. Many of these people, and the
countless others who have been released from the criminal justice
system, continue to face difficulty due to a lack of accessible jobs
and housing, inadequate health care, and voter disenfranchisement.
the onset of the "War on Drugs" and the "Tough on
Crime" political platform beginning in the 1970s, the rates of
incarceration in the United States have sky-rocketed; 600% more
people are in prison today than were in the 1975, while the crime
rate has only dropped by 22% since 1991. Mandatory sentencing laws,
"three-strikes-you're-out" laws, and a plethora of other
drug laws have disproportionately targeted people of color and
low-income people. In fact, 1 in 9 African American men between the
ages of 20-34 are in prison, while 1 in 106 white men 18 years of age
and older are behind bars.
are more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States
in 99 Americans is currently in prison.
1987 and 2007, the prison population has nearly tripled.
that same time period, the crime rate has decreased only 25%.
Unites States is the Number 1 incarcerator in the world.
make up 25% of the world's population and only 4.6% of the world's
are the fastest growing prison population.
in 100 black women between 35-39 are behind bars.
of those sentenced to state prisons in 2004 were convicted of
non-violent crimes, including 34% for drug offenses, and 29% for
in 3 black males have a chance of serving time in prison at some
point in their lives.
the nation's largest cities, drug arrests for African Americans rose
at three times the rate for whites from 1980 to 2003, 225% compared
to 70%. This disparity is not explained by corresponding changes in
rates of drug use.
child as young as 8 can be sentenced to life without the possibility
of parole in the United States.
13 states, young people under 18 are automatically tried in adult
courts, regardless of their crime.
than 2.4% of Americans have been disenfranchised from voting due to a
2007, state spending on prisons was more than $49 million. If
current trends continue, by 2011, that number could increase by as
much as $25 million.
states, Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, and Delaware spend as
much or more on corrections as on higher education.
2006, more than 14,000 people were held in immigration detention
centers. That number grew more than 79% from the previous year.
about Prisons and Prisoners," The Sentencing Project, US
Bureau of Statistics, July 2008
in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008," The Pew Center on the
Ryan, "Disparity by Geography: The War on Drugs in America's
Cities," The Sentencing Project, May 2008
Rest of their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the
United States,” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International, October 2005,
Kingdom government statistics
Campaign for Youth Justice
Margaret, “The Lost Children,” The New Yorker, 3
in Rural Towns
deindustrialization and mechanization of farming, mining, and other
rural industries swept the United States in the 1980s, many rural
towns faced an increase in poverty rates. The 1990's prison boom
swore to be an answer to the economic failings of rural America. The
prisons would generate jobs and stimulate local economies, prison
developers promised. In their report on rural prisons in America,
Marc Mauer, Ryan King, and Tracy Huling state, "Since rural
communities had witnessed a series of failed redevelopment plans,
prisons appeared to offer a politically expedient way in which to
address the persistent poverty and population out-migration that had
plagued them for decades."
very soon after these prisons were built rural towns came to realize
that their economies hadn't received the boost promised to them, that
unemployment rates had actually increased in some areas, and that
the prisons were having a detrimental effect on the social makeup of
communities. In their research, Mauer, King, and Huling found that
rural counties that built prisons during the prison boom had no
economic advantage over those that hadn't. The state prisons were not
hiring locals, and at the public prisons, where local residents were
more likely to find jobs, turnover rates were soaring. Moreover, the
these towns became stigmatized.The prison stigma pushed other
industries out, leaving the the municipals with even less options and
resources than they had to begin with. Often, these towns resolved
these new difficulties by building more prisons, effectively making
themselves penal colonies. Such towns, now common in the United
States, which house 5 or 6 prisons each, show severe increases in
alcoholism, domestic violence, and health problems, as well as
increasing racism, and ethnic prejudice.
new rural prisons of the 1990s had about 235,000 inmates and employed
75,000 workers at the end of the decade — averaging 30 employees for
every 100 prisoners.
1990 and 1999, a prison opened somewhere in rural America every
1988 to 1992, after the initial prison building boom the unemployment
rate rose 55% for counties without prisons and 64% for counties with
prisons in New York.
Ryan; Mauer, Marc; Huling, Tracy., "Big Prisons, Small Towns:
Prison Economics in America," The Sentencing Project,
Tracy, "Building a Prison Economy in Rural America."