Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hard time . . . hard times

SLATE has a report by Sasha Abramsky, "Toxic Persons", which is about the effect of America's prison mania on its society. The stats are chilling; they show the costs of a system that Stevie would love to inflict upon us.

We now imprison more people in absolute numbers and per capita than any other country on earth. With 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. hosts upward of 20 percent of its prisoners. This is because the country's incarceration rate has roughly quintupled since the early 1970s. About 2 million Americans currently live behind bars in jails, state prisons, and federal penitentiaries, and many millions more are on parole or probation or have been in the recent past. In 2008, as a part of an "American Exception" series exploring the U.S. criminal-justice system, New York Times reporter Adam Liptak pointed out that overseas criminologists were "mystified and appalled" by the scale of American incarceration. States like California now spend more on locking people up than on funding higher education.

Then, given the staggering scale of black incarceration, the authors looked at the effect on employment data if prisoners were factored into the unemployment numbers generated by the government. Using that more realistic measure of unemployment, they found that fewer than 30 percent of black male high school dropouts are currently employed. Seventy percent are jobless. Those are the sorts of unemployment figures one associates with failed Third World states rather than the largest, wealthiest economy on earth. And they augur ill for long-term social stability.


Beijing York said...

Excellent article. It would be interesting to do a similar stats exercise to factor in the number of Aboriginal prisoners into Canada's unemployment numbers.

double nickel said...

King Steve would like us Canucks to catch up asap. Apparently unreported crimes are going through the roof.