"One in 36 adult Hispanic men, one in 15 black adult men; and one in nine black men ages 20 to 34 are behind bars. While rates of violent crimes has fallen by 25 percent over the last 20 years, prison population has tripled. Overall, the U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation. Second is China, with 1.5 million people in behind bars."
University of Michigan Study
In an attempt to influence the presidential campaigns , two University of Michigan professors are aiming to elevate the public
debate on prison reform, based on a published study on increasing U.S. prison
population that revealed that more than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars and underscoring an alarming and
widening gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged.
"This is an invisible subject," said U-M professor Buzz Alexander. "It's a crisis and no one is really talking about it."
In late February, the Pew Center on the States reported that about 2.3 million people are incarcerated in state and federal prisons, and local jails. Last year, population grew by 25,000. After three decades of growth, prison population has tripled.
"The current system is destroying the life-course of those incarcerated, and not providing them with ways to become part of the American economic and cultural fabric," said Alexander, professor of English and founder of the Prison Creative Arts Project, which inspires inmates to express themselves through the arts.
"We are not making active efforts to rehabilitate people in prison," Morenoff said. "The rehabilitation ideal died in the 1970s and 1980s. But there are examples of rehab programs in and outside prison that are successful and lower rates of recidivism. The criminal justice system hasn't caught up with the social science."
Based on his first-hand experience working with prisoners, Alexander said the sentencing is often arbitrary, perfunctory, inhumane and singles outs ethnic and racial groups. Morenoff estimates that it costs $25,000-$30,000 per year (in public money) to incarcerate each prisoner. That cost increases significantly with older prisoners and those who need medical care.
"Right now, we have punishment for the sake of deterrence, and making examples of people," Morenoff said. "But the deep-seated reason is that people feel that justice is being served.
"You would think that sending more people to prison would lower crime rates, but there is some evidence, albeit controversial, that communities which send more people to prison have higher crimes rates," he said. "Incarceration can deplete communities of their assets and disrupt their social fabric, which can actually increase crimes rates.
Posted by Jason McManus.
Source: University of Michigan
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