Incarceration in America Is Out of Control: Bob Donley Explains the Problems

LBN’s Bob Donley reports that the United States houses more inmates than any other country in the world. The U.S. has more inmates in prison than 110 of the 150 countries that actually have prisons. The U.S. has over 2 million inmates. Dropping from the top ten countries in terms of prison population, the number of inmates falls below 160,000. FBI records show that nearly one out of every three adults has a criminal record.

Donley points out that a close examination of America’s prison population reveals a curious statistic: the age of prisoners is trending both older and younger. The percentage of America’s prisoner population older than age 64 is many times that of the general population. The growth rate in this segment of the prison population is largely attributable to mandatory minimum sentences.

But, Donley notes, the number of very young prisoners is also increasing. The best available statistics indicate that 95,000 juveniles have been sentenced to adult prisons. This figure does not include young offenders who are incarcerated in juvenile facilities. The increase in the younger prison population is probably the result of minimum sentencing laws for crimes committed with a firearm.

And incarceration is not inexpensive. Donley reports that it costs about $30,000 per year for each inmate in prison. And that is an average figure. For some jurisdictions, the cost per inmate per year is much higher. These programs are not merely expensive in tax dollars, they are expensive in human terms, falling hardest on minority neighborhoods.

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