Yahoo! News News Home - Yahoo! - Help

OneWorld.net
Welcome, photius_fb Personalize News Home Page   -   Sign Out
Yahoo! News   Tue, Aug 19, 2003
Search    for     Advanced
News Front Page
Top Stories
Business
World
   Middle East
   Europe
   Latin America
   Africa
   Asia
   Canada
   Australia/Antarctica
Most Popular
Entertainment
Sports
Technology
Politics
Science
Health
Oddly Enough
Op/Ed
Lifestyle
Local
Comics
News Photos
Most Popular
Weather
Audio/Video
Full Coverage
Lottery
Crosswords
News for Kids

Full Coverage
More about
Prison Issues
Related News Stories
U.S. Has World's Highest Incarceration Rates OneWorld.net/Yahoo! News (Aug 18, 2003)
Report: 5.6M Have 'Prison Experience' AP (Aug 17, 2003)
Prisoners' Ranks Rise Sharply In Florida The Ledger (Aug 17, 2003)
Opinion & Editorials
More Millions For State Prisons The Ledger (Aug 17, 2003)
No cash for colleges, but plenty for prisons St. Petersburg Times (Aug 16, 2003)
If it's prisons, we're suddenly big spenders Tallahassee Democrat (Aug 15, 2003)
Feature Articles
US notches world's highest incarceration rate Christian Science Monitor (Aug 18, 2003)
New prisons chief hasn't a moment to lose Arizona Republic (Aug 13, 2003)
Related Web Sites
Prisoners in 2001
Sentencing Project
Federal Bureau of Prisons

News Resources
Providers
AP
Reuters
AFP
OneWorld.net
NPR
Photos
News Alerts
Justice Department
Services
Daily Emails
Free News Alerts

 
World - OneWorld.net
U.S. Has World's Highest Incarceration Rates
Mon Aug 18, 9:23 AM ET
Add World - OneWorld.net to My Yahoo!

Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON � More than 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served time there, according to a new report by the Justice Department (news - web sites) released Sunday. That's 1 in 37 adults living in the United States, the highest incarceration level in the world.

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
American Friends Service Committee
OneWorld on Justice and Crime


Supported by
Cable & Wireless

 

It's the first time the US government has released estimates of the extent of imprisonment, and the report's statistics have broad implications for everything from state fiscal crises to how other nations view the American experience.

If current trends continue, it means that a black male in the United States would have about a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison during his lifetime. For a Hispanic male, it's 1 in 6; for a white male, 1 in 17.

The numbers come after many years of get-tough policies--and years when violent-crime rates have generally fallen. But to some observers, they point to broader failures in U.S. society, particularly in regard to racial minorities and others who are economically disadvantaged.

"These new numbers are shocking enough, but what we don't see are the ripple effects of what they mean: For the generation of black children today, there's almost an inevitable aspect of going to prison," says Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington. "We have the wealthiest society in human history, and we maintain the highest level of imprisonment. It's striking what that says about our approach to social problems and inequality."

Numbering in the millions

Justice Department analysts say that experts in criminal justice have long known of the stark disparities in prison experience, but they have never been as fully documented. By the end of year 2001, some 1,319,000 adults were confined in state or federal prisons. An estimated 4,299,000 former prisoners are still alive, the new report concludes.

"What we are seeing is a substantial involvement of the public in the criminal-justice system. It raises a lot of questions in the national dialogue on everything from voting and sentencing to priorities related to state's expenditures," says Allen Beck, chief of correction statistics at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, who directed the report.

Nor does the impact of incarceration end with the sentence. Former inmates can be excluded from receiving public assistance, living in public housing, or receiving financial aid for college. Ex-felons are prohibited from voting in many states. And with the increased use of background checks--especially since 9/11--they may be permanently locked out of jobs in many professions, including education, child care, driving a bus, or working in a nursing home.

Enfranchisement for ex-felons

More than 4 million prisoners or former prisoners are denied a right to vote; in 12 states, that ban is for life.

"That's why racial profiling has become such a priority issue for African-Americans, because it is the gateway to just such a statistic," says Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, chief operating officer of the Black Leadership Forum, in Washington. "It means that large numbers in the African-American community are disenfranchised, sometimes permanently."

Some states are already scaling back prohibitions or limits on voting affecting former inmates, including Maryland, Delaware, New Mexico, and Texas.

In addition, critics say that efforts to purge voting rolls of former felons could lead to abuses, and effectively disenfranchise many minority voters.

"On the day of the 2000 [presidential] election, there were an estimated 600,000 former felons who had completed their sentence yet because of Florida's restrictive laws were unable to vote," says Mr. Mauer of the Sentencing Project.

The new report also informs - but does not settle - one of the toughest debates in American politics: whether high rates of imprisonment are related to a drop in crime rates over the past decade.

The prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Much of that surge is the result of public policy, such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing. Nearly 1 in 4 of the inmates in federal and state prisons are there because of drug-related offenses, most of them nonviolent.

 

Narcotic-related arrests

New drug policies have especially affected incarceration rates for women, which have increased at nearly double the rate for men since 1980. Nearly 1 in 3 women in prison today are serving sentences for drug-related crimes.

"A lot of people think that the reason crime rates have been dropping over the past several years is, in part, because we're incarcerating the people most likely to commit crimes," says Stephan Thernstrom, a historian at Harvard University.

Others say the drop has more to do with factors such as a generally healthy economy in the 1990s, more opportunity for urban youth, or better community policing.

But no one disagrees that prison experience will be a part of the lives of more and more Americans. By 2010, the number of American residents in prison or with prison experience is expected to jump to 7.7 million, or 3.4 percent of all adults, according to the new report.


Mail to Friend  Email Story
Message Boards   Post/Read Msgs
Printer Version   Print Story
Ratings: Would you recommend this story?
Not at all 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 Highly


Special Feature

Thin Is In -- Way In
Get the skinny on affordable LCD flat-panel monitors


Prev. Story: In Swaziland, Women Lead the Battle Against AIDS (OneWorld.net)
Next Story: A Killer Returns: Mutant Malaria Strikes Nepal (OneWorld.net)

More World Stories
Saddam Deputy Ramadan Captured in N. Iraq  (Reuters)
Former Iraqi vice president Ramadan captured in Mosul: PUK  (AFP)
Saddam Hussein's Vice President Captured   (AP)
Peace Deal Offers New Hope to War-Wrecked Liberia  (Reuters)
Liberia's warring factions sign sweeping deal to end four-year war  (AFP)


Weekly Specials ADVERTISEMENT
Serious Credit Problems? Use Our Free Debt Consolidation
Stop Snoring Now - Sleep Better Tonight
Sign-up to manage your State Farm� policies online today.
Low on Ink? Buy Inkjet Cartridges at MyInks.com - Save 80%
Rates are Going Up! Refinance Now! Free Quote.
Get an MBA! It can increase your salary by 50%
Stop Snoring Now - Sleep Better Tonight
Check out Toyota's quality cars, trucks and SUVs at toyota.com..
http://rd.yahoo.com/M=252234.3193054.4505220.1472244/D=news/S=53108907:T/A=1693373/R=0/SIG=12431qe3f/*http://www.service1mortgage.com/yahoo_news/refinance_mortgage.html
Shop & Compare for Term Life Insurance with ReliaQuote
ADVERTISEMENT
click here


Copyright � 2003 OneWorld.net.
Copyright � 2003 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Questions or Comments
Privacy Policy -Terms of Service - Copyright Policy - Ad Feedback