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Imprisonments Will Continue Until Freedom Reigns

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Published : January 21st, 2013
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Category : Crisis Watch

This level of incarceration per 1000 of population in the US is the highest in the world, finding no parallel in the developed nations except in Russia, and to a lesser extent South Africa, according to the last chart.  Winning.

Perhaps this is the logical outcome of a Darwinian environment, and a blindly self-rationalizing and self-reinforcing world view, that by the design of a relatively small elite creates 'winners' and 'losers,' where the winners always win, and the losers are cattle or prey.

And it may also be a consequence of a misguided social policy tool with regard to certain types of drug enforcement and criminal deterrence from the bottom up, the 'three strikes' rule, repression as a general policy bias, and the privatization of the prison system. 

The watershed year for an increase in imprisonment levels seems to be 1980.   Did anything significant happen that year?  One can only wonder.

The distribution of imprisonments by state is also interesting. It seems to be a 'warmer weather' phenomenon with Louisiana and Mississippi clearly in the lead. As noted below, Texas has recently fallen from second to fourth place because of some policy changes.

Perhaps it also involves a 'failure to communicate.' It is beyond all doubt and indication that something is wrong in the system, and festering.

As an aside, in case you had missed this, Slavery in the US Continued Until WW II.

If there is any good news in this, it is that the overall rates of incarceration have flattened and even decreased a bit since 2006.   Even Texas, which had been number two in prisoners per 1000, has been able to reduce its state prison population using several policy measures according to McClatchy.
A year ago, Texas had more than 156,000 prisoners in 111 state prisons.

Though Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has more inmates than any other state, it has fallen from second to fourth place in the number of people imprisoned per capita. Louisiana tops the per capita list.

Texas' prison population has dipped because of diversion programs lawmakers invested in five years ago, ranging from halfway houses to specialty courts that address cases involving mentally ill people and drunken drivers, said Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice...

A decrease in crime rates, changes in demographics and an aging general population also have a role in emptying Texas' prison beds, experts say.

Or perhaps this overall decline in the US is just an artifact of the migration of more criminal activity to the financial sector where indictments, much less imprisonments, are few and far between.  See, economic incentives do have their positive effects.

"Our incarceration rate is by far the highest in the world. The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. However you draw it, we need to change the shape of this curve.

Drug laws are probably the place to start. Three strikes rules would be next. Preventing the privatization of prisons — which creates a lobby for more incarceration — is another good move."

American Incarceration Rates Are Out of Control

Charts from Incarceration in the United States:

As of 2009, the three states with the lowest ratios of imprisoned people per 100,000 population are Maine (150 per 100,000), Minnesota (189 per 100,000), and New Hampshire (206 per 100,000).

The three states with the highest ratio are Louisiana (881 per 100,000), Mississippi (702 per 100,000) and Oklahoma (657 per 100,000).

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