Lesson 8: U.S. incarceration, The War on Drugs
The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. As of 2011, for every 100,000 people who lived in the U.S., 716 were in jail, or 0.716% of the population. The total number of people in prison in 2012 was a staggering 2,228,424. While the United States represents about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. According to a US Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole (released from prison with restrictions). That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans is under some form of correctional control.
The American penal system for the last forty years has been dominated by relentless growth, with a 500% increase in inmates. Of the seven million people currently under correctional control in the U.S., a disproportionate number come from a small subset of neighborhoods in the major cities of each state. Overwhelmingly black, Latino, and poor, the residents of these neighborhoods are those most likely to suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty; homelessness; and sub-standard school, healthcare, and other basic services. A vast majority of those who enter the correctional system when released will re-enter it at some point.