Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I'm ashamed for the nation, this nation, of which I am a citizen. Here, where I live, more than 3 percent of adults are either incarcerated, on parole or probation or under the supervision of a state or local authority. That's one in 32. Marie Gottschalk writes about this in today's Washington Post. She tells us eleven percent of young African Americans is in prison or jail. Half the people in American prisons are black.

Do they deserve it? No. The incarceration rate in the US is 12 times greater than the rate in comparable industrial nations. We don't really have 12 times more law-breakers. What we have is a sentencing policy that puts people away and keeps them there. The prisons are full and prison populations are growing faster than the rate of population increase simply because sentences are too long. Gottschalk says: 'Even former president Bill Clinton, whose administration was an accomplice in the largest prison buildup in U.S. history, conceded in a keynote address at a University of Pennsylvania in February: "Most of the people who went to prison should have been let out a long time ago."'

She says "The leading presidential candidates have not identified mass imprisonment as a central issue, even though it is arguably the country's top civil rights concern. Many of today's crime control policies fundamentally impede the economic, political and social advancement of the most disadvantaged blacks and members of other minority groups. Prison leaves them less likely to find gainful employment, vote, participate in other civic activities and maintain ties with their families and communities."

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics Correctional Surveys (The Annual Probation Survey, National Prisoner Statistics, Survey of Jails, and The Annual Parole Survey) as presented in Correctional Populations in the United States, Annual, Prisoners in 2006 and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2006*.

BOJ Probation and Parole Statistics say that the number of people on parole is increasing at a slower rate than in the past partly because of a change in policy: some states have abolished parole board authority for releasing prisoners. Also: although half the prison population is black, only 29% of parolees are black.

*About This table the Bureau of Justice Statistics says:
In 2005, over 7 million people were under some form of correctional supervision including:

Probation - court ordered community supervision of convicted offenders by a probation agency. In many instances, the supervision requires adherence to specific rules of conduct while in the community.

Prison - confinement in a State or Federal correctional facility to serve a sentence of more than 1 year, although in some jurisdictions the length of sentence which results in prison confinement is longer.

Jail - confinement in a local jail while pending trial, awaiting sentencing, serving a sentence that is usually less than 1 year, or awaiting transfer to other facilities after conviction.

Parole - community supervision after a period of incarceration. These data include only adults who are on active or inactive parole supervision or some other form of conditional release, including mandatory release, following a term of incarceration

No comments: