The Comparison Between Prison and Slavery

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The Comparison Between Prison and Slavery by John Dewar Gleissner The fairly new term, "mass incarceration," means that the U.S. has 2.2 million prisoners, more than any country in the world. A greater percentage of the U.S. population is in prison than in any other nation. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population and almost 25% of the world's prisoners. The entire U.S. correctional population, including those on probation, on parole and awaiting trial, is about 7.3 million Americans. These eye-popping numbers came about for many reasons: mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes legislation, illegal drugs, gangs, immorality in all its modern forms, the war on drugs, the decline of marriage and families, high rates of recidivism, incarceration of the mentally ill, the decline of capital punishment, problems with the criminal justice system and all the forces pushing tough crime policies. Difficult economic times focus attention on the increasing costs of keeping all these people - 93% of them men - behind bars. Each prisoner costs about $32,000 per year, and the average prisoner does little to offset the cost of confinement. The social costs may be even higher. Breadwinners are lost, families destroyed, more kids grow up without fathers or mothers, welfare costs increase, the entire sex ratio is thrown out of balance and prisoners face grim prospects when released. The hyper-incarceration statistics for African-American males are much worse. We incarcerate one in nine African-Americans between the ages of 20 and 34. In 2003, it was calculated that "At current levels of incarceration newborn black males in this country have a greater than a 1 in 4 chance of going to prison during their lifetimes, while Hispanic males have a 1 in 6 chance, and white males have a 1 in 23 chance of serving time." By 2007, just four years later, the U.S. Department of Justice
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