Tuesday, April 3, 2012

American Gulag Archipelago

Notorious communist dictator Joseph Stalin ruled the U.S.S.R. from 1941 to 1953 and presided over an unrivaled forced labor and concentration camp system. Nevertheless, as Adam Gopnik wrote in the New Yorker, “Over all, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America - more than 6 million - than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height." Of course, 'under correctional supervision' is not the same as in prison, still the number is startling.

Given its history Panderbear was not surprised to learn that Russia has a very high incarceration rate. What was surprising, as the Wikipedia graphic points out, is that the United States of America, 'Land of the Free,' is the world's leading jailer.

We have a higher percentage of our population behind bars than any other country and not by just a little. At 760 prisoners per 100,000 population (2008) the U.S. bests the average European incarceration rate by an insane factor of 7, is more than 6 times China's rate, and is 12 times Japan's.

Why is the U.S. in the company of countries like Russia, Rwanda, and Cuba instead of modern western nations? All nations have their share of politicians pandering to the "tough on crime" constituency. But, if the rest of the developed world can maintain secure and stable societies without locking up millions of people, why can't America?

Incarceration Rates by Country

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1 comment:

  1. America's prison rate is outrageous. In addtion, privatizing prisons now is an issue.