America now imprisons more than one in every 100 adults | National Union of Public and General Employees

America now imprisons more than one in every 100 adults

'Prison costs are blowing holes in state budgets.' - Pew Center on the States


Ottawa (4 March 2008) - When Conrad Black went to jail in Florida Monday to begin his 6 1/2-year sentence for fraud and obstruction, he became part of an American justice system that punishes both corporate and criminal behaviour severely.

In fact, the U.S. imprisons more citizens per capita than any other country in the world.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the beginning of 2008, one for every 99.1 adults in the population. The report is based on state-by-state data.

The comparable rate of imprisonment in Canada is about one seventh of the American rate, although it is expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead as tough new mandatory sentencing laws brought in by the Harper government begin to take effect.

The report said America's 50 U.S. states spent more than $49 billion combined on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. This is six times the amount spent for higher education in the U.S., it said.

"Prison costs are blowing holes in state budgets but barely making a dent in recidivism rates," the center notes.

"At the same time, policy makers are becoming increasingly aware of research-backed strategies for community corrections – better ways to identify which offenders need a prison cell and which can be safely handled in the community, new technologies to monitor their whereabouts and behavior, and more effective supervision and treatment programs to help them stay on the straight and narrow," it reports.

"Taken together, these trends are encouraging policy makers to diversify their states’ array of criminal sanctions with options for low-risk offenders that save tax dollars but still hold offenders accountable for their actions."


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring that our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
? One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008 - pdf
? The high social and financial cost of prison privatization
? Merchandising Prisoners - by Byron E. Price
? Private prison operators waiting to cash in on Canadian policies

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