25 April 2011

Americans in prison

Offered in conjunction with an article in LA Progressive, which notes that "“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.”
Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black — and increasingly brown — men caught in America’s prison system, according to Alexander, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun after attending Stanford Law. “In fact, crime rates have fluctuated over the years and are now at historical lows.”

“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks...

However change is to come, a big impediment will be the massive prison-industrial system. “If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began,” she said, “more than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear.”
Via Miss C Recommends.


  1. This chart could be made really useful if lines tracking population growth and crime rate were added.

  2. The privately run prison system here in good ole Arizona has a strong lobby that has the republican governor and the legislature in their pocket. No easing up of any law that would put someone in one of their jails is allowed.

  3. Hm, I hadn't thought of the link with jobs. Fewer prisoners would mean fewer jobs for guards, plus more competition in the workplace from the (former) prisoners. Obviously, this is the solution to our unemployment crisis. Throw more people in jail!

    (Kidding, kidding. But I'm sure the private prison industry is thinking along those lines.)

  4. No joke, Mel. I see the same idea relating to our war economy. War pulls folks from the job market and causes marriages and babies - you can choose to put off buying a new car but you have to spend a lot of money on a child.
    This is why democracy doesn't work. Stop all crime and war and our economy will collapse?

  5. 'More African-Americans in prison today than enslaved in 1850'..? So how many African-Americans are NOT in prison today compare to those not-enslaved in 1850.

    This kind of statistical nonsense presented totally out of context is worthy of Mr Beck on Fox News but not anyone who is trying to give a realistic picture of the world.

    Outside of your borders, the people who still like you guys, are starting to have their doubts.

  6. 'More African-Americans in prison today than enslaved in 1850'
    Matthew, the quotation is marking on a statistical analysis. The numbers in regard to the quote are accurate and it is simply an comparison to give people a more accurate depiction of what the graph is representing. In no way is this akin to Glen Beck who praddles falsified political theories with NO numerical evidence, or any evidence at all.

    And by the way, your last statement is indicative of your state of mind. You make assumptions about an entire country's point of view by what you see on the news and what you hear from a few selected people/statements. You should realize, just like you, one's country and individuals in that country do not speak for everyone. Don't get angry when you hear people grouping your entire country together based on a few people's accounts when you do the same. I am not my country and do not agree with my government all the time but this is my home and it has treated me well so far.

  7. Having been mugged and robbed twice in the past decade by two different drug addicts (once landing me in the ER, once at noon on a busy street) who tried to use their addiction as justification for their actions at trial, I'm pretty happy to see them locked up. For the record, neither was black or brown.


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