The United States locks up too many people. Globally, the average incarceration rate is 125 prisoners per 100,000 people. The United States arrest rate is 743 per 100,000. This gives the U.S. the highest incarceration rate on Earth.
A recent article in The Christian Century says America seems to enjoy locking people in prison. As the piece reveals, the U.S. has only six percent of the world’s population, but it has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
Senator James Webb (D., Va.) has remarked:
“Either we have the most evil people on earth living in the U.S. or we are doing something dramatically wrong in how we approach criminal justice.”
In the 1980’s, the War on Drugs allowed congress to pass laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences for minor offenses. In the years following, many states became “tough-on-crime” with similar sentencing for minor and non-violent offenses.
This “tough-on-crime” mentality has led to a spike in incarcerations. In recent years, many people have been locked behind bars—people without violent pasts have been imprisoned and sentenced to longer terms.
Locking up too many people for too long ultimately costs the state too much. Some states are starting to realize we are not only wasting taxpayer money—we are not making our cities safer.
States simply cannot afford to continue building and staffing prisons. We must change the way we do criminal justice. This country simply cannot afford to spend $200 billion a year to lock up over 2 million people.
The Christian Century points out, “The current criminal justice system is certainly an absolute scandal—and a catastrophe for millions of Americans, their families and their communities.”
Visit Justice Fellowship for more on reforming our criminal justice system and creating safer communities.