By John Hubbuch
The September 19th issue of Newsweek had an article ("Jim Webb's Last Crusade") had what was for me some very surprising data about the US prison populations.According to the article, in 1980 fewer than 500,000 Americans were in prison. Today that number is 2.3 million.We have by far the highest median incarceration rate in the world per 100,000 people. The world average is 125 per 100,000. Germany's is 89. England's is 153. Ours is a whopping 743. All told we incarcerate 25% of the world's prisoners.
The article suggests that a big reason for this is the 1986 law that cracked down on drugs by mandating minimum prison sentences . There are other reasons as well. Reform is in the air because it costs more than $200 billion to lock all these people up. And as we all know, the cities, states and the federal government arepretty strapped for cash.
It was all very eye-opening. It's hard to believe that given these statistics our justice system isn't in need of serious reform. But I suspect given the 2012 election, no candidate is going to propose any reform lest he be tarred with the dreaded "soft on crime" . So we we will have yet another can to kick down the road. Too bad.