It’s an American tragedy.Â
If there is one constant in American society, it’s the growing prison population.
With the highest incarceration rate in the world, America’s prison population still keeps growing at a distressingly high rate primarily because of tough sentencing guidelines and lack of support systems to integrate released prisoners into society.
The U.S. prisoner count stands at about 2.2 million now with 1.5 million in state and federal prisons and 750,000 in local jails across the country.
Today, America has more people in prison than the dictatorial regime of China.Â
U.S. state and federal prison population is estimated to grow by another 192,000 over the next five years costing $27.5 billion on top of the annual expense of $60 billion.
When you consider that in the 1970s there were 196,429 inmates in state and federal prisons, you get an idea of the magnitude of the problem.
The growth has been constantâ€”in years of rising crime and falling crime, in good economic times and bad, during wartime and while we were at peace. A generation of growth has produced prison populations that are now eight times what they were in 1970.
Blacks bear the brunt of the growing prison population. According to the new study, 8% of working age Black men are in prison.
The authors of the report titled Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce Americaâ€™s Prison Population note that:
Prison policy has exacerbated the festering national problem of social and racial inequality. Incarceration rates for blacks and Latinos are now more than six times higher than for whites; 60% of Americaâ€™s prison population is either African-American or Latino….At current rates, one-third of all black males, one-sixth of Latino males, and one in 17 white males will go to prison during their lives. Incarceration rates this high are a national tragedy.
For “reversing the imprisonment binge,” the report recommends reducing severity of sentences, eliminating prison time for parole or probation technical violations, reducing length of parole and probation supervision periods and decriminalizing â€œvictimlessâ€ crimes like those related to drug use and abuse.