USA Incarceration

However we fiddle with the statistics, it is obvious that at least 600 folks per 100,000 population are presently incarcerated unnecessarily in the USA.

Perusing these figures, what should appall Americans is the remarkable reality that while the USA incarcerates 763 individuals, across the border in Canada we incarcerate a mere 116.

Of course, we can always blame a racial group of choice, but then that should be reflected in the other numbers.  The fact is that property crimes and violence have slightly declined.  The reality is that since 1980 we have seen a major expansion on incarceration independent of any increase in significant crime.

We have every reason to think that the real proportion of perps in the population at large remains fairly constant from one developed country to the next.  The majority have too much invested in the community to lightly throw it aside and typically do nothing of the sort.

There is no good reason to think that the USA is different.  Sillier, there is little evidence that there is a shortage of violent criminals on the street.  Maybe if we free them all, the competition for turf and cash will drive most into legitimate lifestyles.

The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration

June 2010, John Schmitt, Kris Warner, and Sarika Gupta

The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion.

These cost savings could be realized through a reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of exclusively non-violent offenders, who now make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population.

A review of the extensive research on incarceration and crime suggests that these savings could be achieved without any appreciable deterioration in public safety. 

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