Mass incarceration: disposing of America’s least wanted

Although it seems like every day more and more people learn about the racial inequalities that still exist in America, many are unaware of the injustices still in place today, and what that means for individuals and our country.

One of the biggest ways these injustices are manifested is in the prison system. Here’s a breakdown of what this looks like:

  • The U.S. has only 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

  • There was a 127 percent jump in spending on incarceration between 1987 and 2007. In that same time, there was only a 21 percent rise in spending on higher education.
  • In the United States today, there are more African Americans under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War.
  • The prison population grew by 700 percent between 1970 and 2005, far outpacing general population growth and crime rates.
  • 1 in every 106 white males 18 and older is in prison. 1 in every 36 Hispanic males 18 and older is in prison. 1 in every 15 black males 18 and older is in prison.
  • The growth in the prison population is due in large part to the war on drugs, which was coined by Richard Nixon in the 1970s and popularized by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and relies on punitive measures as a response to social problems.

Sources: ACLU, “Broken On All Sides”

For anyone interested in finding out more about mass incarceration, I highly recommend the documentary “Broken On All Sides,” by Matthew Pillischer.


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