The Top 8 Most Startling Facts You Should Know About Our Prison System
Prison may sound like no big deal when you are young and naive. However, take a good hard look at these statistics that could be a real life changer. One wrong move and you could become any one of these statistics.
1. Drug arrests and sentencing spiked the US prison population by over 80% in 1990. Little has changed in this scenario with America being the harshest nation in the world on drug penalties. The average sentence for drug possession is 5-10 years compared to less than 6 months in other parts of the world. The United States accounts for about 4.5% of the entire world population and in 2008, the US prison population topped China’s prison system, in comparison, by millions.
2. Although known as the land of the free and the home of the brave, 80% of all prisoners are unable to hire an attorney and end up behind bars. Many are not even represented by public defenders who regularly carry a caseload of over 100 clients at any given time. Besides being poorly represented, our society is less willing to give those who have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes, a chance for employment once released.
3. Remember the young and naive statement earlier? Most prison inmates are between the ages of 26 and 40. Definitely old enough to know better but not wise enough to stay out of trouble, especially with illegal drugs. This is not to say that older teens and young adults are not stricken with the ills of prison. Records show that in 2010, one in three black men that had never graduated from high school, were imprisoned. It only goes to prove that these older inmates are probably repeat offenders due to not being able to get an education or a job.
4. 3 out of 4 prisoners from the Washington D.C. area are black males that were sentenced from a drug related crime. Nationally, over 40% of black males are behind bars due to a drug charge. This leaves one out of 28 children without parents to care for them. Only 25 years ago, this figure was one out of 125.
5. More than 96% of all cases tried never go before a jury. Proving your innocence can be harder than serving the time and also very expensive. Perhaps this is also due to some states seeing a decrease in prison population, such as California, Michigan, and New York, right before the start of the recession, and public defenders being decreased instead of increased.
6. While drug offenses top the chart in the most incarcerated, possession of weapons is second. Immigration and sex offenses follow at 7 and 9%, with homicide and robbery falling below 3.5%. Some legislators are working to balance out the penalty with the crime, but little progress has been taking place.
7. The staff that monitors inmates is 73% white male/female and 21% African American. White female guards even top the African American staff at 27%. A better balance is also needed in this area considering the number of African Americans being housed.
8. The total U.S. prison population is over 2.4 million and has quadrupled since 1980. This means that one out of every 100 residents of the country is behind bars. The US houses more than 35 European countries combined.
It is apparent that the US Prison System needs restructured. Low-level crimes, nonviolent charges, and first-time offenses seem to be taking up critical space that could be used for far worse crime offenders. The stigma of having a prison record also affects those able-bodied men and women that are punished long into their future.
19 Actual Statistics About America’s Prison System| Policy Mic
By the numbers| Federal Bureau Of Prisons
Wonkbook: 11 facts about America’s prison population| The Washington Post