A new “Big-Picture View” by The Prison Policy Initiative reveals a horrifying picture of mass incarceration in America.
“The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S.”
Imagine living in a country that puts 10.6 million people in jail every year.
“Every year, over 600,000 people enter prison gates, but people go to jail 10.6 million times each year. Jail churn is particularly high because most people in jails have not been convicted. Some have just been arrested and will make bail within hours or days, while many others are too poor to make bail and remain behind bars until their trial. Only a small number (about 160,000 on any given day) have been convicted, and are generally serving misdemeanors sentences under a year.”
Imagine living in a country that puts 550,000 people in jail every year who have not been convicted of a crime.
Imagine living in a country that puts people behind bars for technical violations and low-level offenses.
“More often, they are charged with misdemeanors or non-criminal violations. Yet even low-level offenses, like technical violations of probation and parole, can lead to incarceration and other serious consequences. A common example is when people on probation or parole are jailed for violating their supervision, either for a new crime or a technical violation. If a parole or probation officer suspects that someone has violated supervision conditions, they can file a detainer (or hold), rendering that person ineligible for release on bail. For people struggling to rebuild their lives after conviction or incarceration, returning to jail for a minor infraction can be profoundly destabilizing.”
Imagine living in a country that charges 13 million Americans every year with misdemeanor crimes for things like jaywalking or sitting on a sidewalk.
“The massive misdemeanor system in the U.S. is another important but overlooked contributor to overcriminalization and mass incarceration. For behaviors as benign as jaywalking or sitting on a sidewalk, an estimated 13 million misdemeanor charges sweep droves of Americans into the criminal justice system each year (and that’s excluding civil violations and speeding). These low-level offenses account for over 25% of the daily jail population nationally, and much more in some states and counties.”
Imagine living in a country that destroys the lives of millions of people through mass incarceration.
“The criminal justice system punishes poverty, beginning with the high price of money bail: The median felony bail bond amount ($10,000) is the equivalent of 8 months’ income for the typical detained defendant. As a result, people with low incomes are more likely to face the harms of pretrial detention. Poverty is not only a predictor of incarceration; it is also frequently the outcome, as a criminal record and time spent in prison destroys wealth, creates debt, and decimates job opportunities.”
One doesn’t need an imagination to know that something needs to change. Locking up 2.3 million people every day is the exact opposite of what America’s principles are supposed to represent to the free world.
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