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by Peter Moskos

March 25, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

I heard Harvard Professor Bruce Western speak tonight at New York University. A short while back I heard him speak at John Jay College and he was nice enough to give me his powerpoint presentation. I use some of it in my class.

This is one of those slides:

We now lock up 730 people per 100,000. And this rate is still going up. That's more than any country in the world. More than North Korea. More than China. More than Russia. And remember that "rate" takes population into account. Hell, in pure numbers we lock up more people than China. And there are more than a billion of them.

This massive incarceration only started in the mid-1970s with the war on drugs. Mostly affected are young black male high-school drop outs. Among this cohort, the majority will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Now I know this stuff and even I find it hard to believe. I asked Prof. Western if his data on incarceration included prison and jail and arrests? Nope. Just prison.

Doesn't anybody care?


Dave Hummels said...

Land of the free indeed! These stats are becoming well known, but will they get people's attention? Peter, with the work you (not to mention your associates at LEAP) are doing, maybe substantive change can occur in spite of it all. As a prospective police recruit (currently employed in another area of public safety) and a former criminal justice student, I am very cynical about the system at the moment, but I still have some belief in the idea of promoting change from within. Thank you for the hard work, thank you for your service, and I look forward to reading your book, which I have pre-ordered.

PCM said...

A good police officer should be cynical about the system. Thank you for you kind words and good luck! I wish you the best.