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News Link • Criminal Justice System

The U.S. prison-industrial complex has us in its costly grip

• John Schmitt, Kris Warner, and Sarika Gupta
The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion.

These cost savings could be realized through a reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of exclusively non-violent offenders, who now make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population.

A review of the extensive research on incarceration and crime suggests that these savings could be achieved without any appreciable deterioration in public safety. 

3 Comments in Response to

Comment by Olde Reb
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 Google "UNICOR" for the private firm, allegedly owned by Bush that pays inmates 15 to 25 cents per hour to compete with tax paying businesses.

Comment by Sharon Jarvis
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The main reason for our prison population is profit.  The prison system is often privatized, which means the corporations than run prisons make more money when there are more inmates. Then add politicized judges who will give long jail sentences for either ideological reasons or they are getting kickbacks.  A lawyer friend told me of a black man who just got 10 years in prison for shoplifting.  You can read about thousands of marijuana users--not dealers--who go to jail.  Wake up to the fact that America is a corporate state and you are merely fodder.

Comment by Die Daily
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The reactionary right amazes me with its facility for accepting entirely contradictory viewpoints at the same time. Whether it's "supporting freedom and opposing Soviet gulag-style oppression" while at the same time supporting the "tough on crime" and prohibition legislation that has made us the envy of the most hawkish Soviet planner. Or simultaneously opposing abortion on the basis of "life is precious" while calling for capital punishment on the basis that it's not. Or avowing "my body is my sovereign property and you Feds can keep your hands off it" while seeking to criminalize a woman's right to make a personal, everybody's hands-off choice about whether or not to have an abortion. Are gulags bad, or not? Is life sacred, or not? Is it her own body, or does the collective own it? Great article.

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