There is no other country in the world that has imprisoned more people of color than the United States. The entire population of the United States only represents five percent of the world's population and over twenty percent of the world's prison population. Incarcerating poor people in large numbers has become big business for the United States. As a matter of fact, more African American males are locked up in prisons throughout the United States than were slaves in 1850. This is a larger prison population than that of the top 35 European countries combined.
The United States incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more people than Germany, and twelve times more than Japan. The business of incarceration is major and many people benefit from the misery of others. Some states spend over a billion dollars a year on their correctional system. This does not include the tens of billions of dollars spent by the federal government to police, prosecute, and imprison individuals. Everybody understands that some people need to be locked up if they commit a violent crime against another person. However, locking people up in mass numbers for nonviolent crimes is an atrocity against humanity.
By comparison, in 1965 there were 780,000 adults under correctional authority throughout the United States. Currently, there are well over 7 million people locked up in penitentiaries, county jails, on probation or parole. The failed war on drugs has been the main catalyst in regards to the increased prison population throughout the United States. More needs to be done to help people deal with their issues of poverty, frustration, disenfranchisement, mental health problems, and violent thinking on the front end. Over 27 million people across the United States are taking some form of anti-depression medication. There are thousands of mentally ill people incarcerated throughout the world. Most people need help, not jails. What more can be done to help reverse this ever-growing trend of locking people up instead of providing them with the necessary help to cope and deal with a changing world? We are living in a very sophisticated and highly technological world. Young men and women are being released from jails on a daily basis only to find themselves behind time by several years. It's hard for some people to adjust to overall society without the necessary help and support.
If the United States Prison Industrial Complex remains unchallenged there may come a day in the United States that five to six million people will find themselves behind bars in one of the greatest countries on the planet earth. It's time to look into alternative programs and methods to help the masses of nonviolent offenders get back on the right track. Jails should represent true rehabilitation not false reasons for the unjust treatment of people of color due to the lack of innovative ideas from some of the policy and decision makers.
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