The land of the unfree – Le Monde diplomatique

By , September 13, 2009 7:45 pm
Prison showers
Image by Smath. via Flickr

The United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other nation. It has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. If you count everyone ensnared in the corrections system – on probation or parole – millions of Americans (one of every 31) are anything but free in the land of liberty (1).

“Incarceration is a rich country’s hobby,” says Scott Henson, a Texan journalist and political consultant who has monitored America’s addiction to imprisonment for years and thinks it a pastime of impractical and frivolous consequences. Crime and punishment are disconnected. As funding has increased, more prisons have been built, more of the usual suspects – drug users, dealers, and petty gangsters – have been wrangled into newly constructed penitentiaries, and more warders hired to man the guard towers.

Crime seems to have fluctuated of its own free will, unaffected by the billions of dollars thrown at it and the policies written to combat it. Although crime declined throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, incarceration rates climbed dramatically, even among the young. Meanwhile, the state of New York saw a dramatic decrease in violent crime as its prison population dropped (2).

via The land of the unfree – Le Monde diplomatique – English edition.

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