Statistics put out today by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics show that in Amazing America, jail occupancy rates are far higher than hotel occupancy rates.
Justice Department statistics show jail occupancy rate stood at 84% in mid-2012 (latest period for which statistics are available).
Unlike federal or state prisons, jails are usually run by local law enforcement agencies and hold inmates while they await court action or serve a sentence of one year or less.
If you include state and federal occupancy rates, the U.S. occupancy rate of correctional institutions is 106% of official capacity (Source: International Center for Prison Studies).
There are 744,524 inmates in jails and another 1.50 million in state and federal prisons making for a total of 2.24 million housed in cages.
Hotel Occupancy Rates Lower
Hotel occupancy rate in the U.S. for the week ended May 11, 2013 was just 62.7% (Source: HotelNews.com)
The U.S. motel/hotel business, in which Indians play a big role, is a tough slog.
There are far too many headaches in the short-stay motel and hotel business – the franchisors are squeezing you, the immigration department is cracking down on the illegal alien employees, it’s hard to find good housekeepers, hookers are messing up your motel’s reputation, crack addicts are flushing drug paraphernalia into the toilet and clogging the drains and your querulous customers are leaving nasty comments on TripAdvisor.
Aaah, life is hard for owners of motels and hotels.
Why U.S. Jail Occupancy Rate is High
Incarceration and occupancy rates in U.S. prisons and jails are high due for the following reasons:
1. Tough sentencing laws that give little leeway to judges forcing them to impose long sentences even for minor crimes. Prison data reveals that 86% of sentences are for over three-years (Source: Bureau of Prisons).
2. Entrenched racial and class bias in the law enforcement and judicial systems that throws a high number of Blacks, Hispanics and poor Whites into jails and prisons. Blacks and Hispanics accounted for 52% of jail inmates but only 29.8% of the total population (Sources: U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Census).
3. Poor quality of public defenders. Low compensation for public defenders means that a lot of defendants do not get the quality of legal counsel they deserve and many are often compelled to sign unfavorable plea deals.
4. Lobbyists of private correctional institutions have influenced legislators at the state and federal levels to write tough laws in exchange for campaign contributions.
5. Public clamor for long sentences. Some high profile crimes (particularly, murder and rape) has the public baying to “cage the monsters and throw off the keys.” This public outcry led legislatures to write tough sentencing laws.
6. Overzealous prosecutors do their best to keep the prison/jail occupancy rate high. A reputation built on a high conviction rate and winning some high profile cases can propel prosecutors into cushy private sector jobs after a few years in government service.
7. There are few livelihood options outside crime for a lot of Americans, particularly for those without a college degree, family connections or good networking skills. No, a job at Walmart of McDonald’s doesn’t count.
8. High recidivism rate keeps feeding the prison and jail beds. There are few programs to enable released prisoners to adjust to life outside prison and earn a decent livelihood.
9. Tough drug laws with severe punishments even for peddling small quantities or possession.
The only silver lining in the high jail and prison incarceration and occupancy rates in the U.S. is that as the economy continues to flounder states will be forced to release some inmates early.
And of course, the important fact that crime is generally low here.
But overall I think the prison and jail business will continue to flourish and show higher occupancy rates than hotels for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps, our Patels, Mehtas and Shahs should consider diversifying from short-stay businesses (motels and hotels) into long-stay businesses (jails and prisons). 😉