Prison Inmates Reach Record Numbers

The U.S. spends over $60 billion dollars a year on a penal system that has sustainability issues. Prison populations have radically increased over the last several decades as well as the cost of incarcerating jail and prison inmates.

The United States accounts for 5% of the world’s population, but has over 20% of the prison population. Around 2.2 million people are incarcerated in U.S. jails. In addition, 1 in 35 adults in the U.S. are currently jail inmates, under probation, on parole, or prison inmates. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, 46.5% of jail and prison inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent drug related crimes. The next largest inmate group, at 16.5%, consists of inmates charged with weapons, explosives, and arson crimes. 

In my country we go to prison first and then become President.

Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

The average cost of incarceration per person is over $30,000 a year. Drug rehabilitation in prison cost over $30,000 as well, while in comparison rehabilitation cost around $10,000 outside of prison. So, a nonviolent drug offender costs more than $60,000 a year to incarcerate. 

The organization Human Rights Watch(HRW) claims that the majority of prisoners are charged with nonviolent crimes. They also claim that these prisoners are not successfully rehabilitated in prison and in many cases are worse on release. Over half of prisoners are re-incarcerated within three years of leaving prison. 

Once released, a person can find it difficult to find work or a place to live. Due to having a criminal record most people can't find a job and are unable to get welfare. These same people can’t apply for subsidized housing either. The emotional and mental state of a person upon release is not looked after, and there are few systems in place to provide people with mental health assistance. All of these factors can lead to recidivism. 

Even though the first offense for the majority of prisoners is for nonviolent crimes, the difficulty to find work and the influence of prison life can lead to an escalation in criminal activity. The current state of prison systems in the U.S. almost enables a cycle that costs more and more money.

U.S. prisons are overcrowded, made up of mostly nonviolent criminals, cost anywhere from $30,000 to over $60,000 a year per inmate, and creates cycles of release and recidivism. It is estimated that taxpayers spend $60 billion a year for prisons. Despite cost and evidence that such a large prison system is ineffective, the U.S. continues to maintain its high prison population each year. ​

Source: Search Quarry


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