U.S. Prison Population Soars to Record High

March 02, 2008 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
For the first time in history, more than 1 in every 100 Americans is in prison. The numbers are disproportionately high among minorities.

30-Second Summary

According to a new report by the Pew Center on the States, 2,319,258 people, or 1 in every 99.1 adults, were in U.S. prisons at the beginning of 2008. That prison population sets a new U.S. record and is larger than any other in the world.

According to a story in USA Today, state governments spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from $11 billion 20 years ago.

The Pew report says that Kentucky is the state with the most inmates. There the number of prisoners soared 12 percent in 2007 to 22,402. In a budget speech last month, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear noted that although the state’s crime rate had only risen 3 percent over the last 30 years, its prison population had climbed 600 percent.

On a national level, the numbers are disproportionately high among some minority groups, reports the International Herald Tribune.

One in 36 Latino adults, 1 in 15 black adults and 1 in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, according to Department of Justice figures.

“Without a substantive national effort to help at-risk kids find a path to hope and achievement,” the numbers will get worse, and prison budgets will continue to soar, writes Dan Brown on The Huffington Post

Crowded prisons have repercussions in American health care as well. The CDC reports that rates of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases are higher in prisons than in the general public.

Headline Links: One in 100 American adults behind bars

Background: 'Can the American Prison System Be Fixed?'

Opinions & Analysis: Intervention lacking for high-risk groups

Related Topics: The public health component

New law aimed at addressing racial inequality

Reference: Justice Department figures


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