Mass Incarceration in the US

Mass incarceration in the United States is a heavy topic that is too often overlooked.  Today, America has an uncanny reputation of being the leading jailer in the entire world.  According to, the “‘tough on crime’ politics of the 1980s and 1990s fueled an explosion in incarceration rates.”  By the year 2010, there were over “1,267,000 people behind bars in state prisons, 744,500 in local jails, and 216,900 in federal facilities.”

These disturbing statics reveal the harsh reality of American society: there are too many people “locked in cages.”  Moreover, tax payer dollars are being used to fund local, state, and federal penitentiaries.  The United States alone spends “over $80 billion on incarceration each year.”  More shockingly are the alarming numbers of drug related crimes committed by both whites and blacks. states that “Blacks are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate 10 times greater than that of whites, despite the fact that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates.”  The reason for this could relate to varying factors.  Perhaps blacks are caught more often for being too overt, whites may have a boarder network of drug suppliers which makes it harder to trace drug activity to them, or there could be the very hard truth that racial profiling is still alive and well.  Either way, something must be done.

If a crime is committed, there should be repercussions for those who committed those crimes.  However, by the United States doing its part to help educate families and communities about the horrors of negative behaviors, perhaps the number of incarceration rates can be “cut in half by 2020.”

This is why ACLU has begun the Smart Justice Campaign, so that Americans can begin to “reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and…combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.”  This act will be geared toward “all 50 states for reforms to usher in a new era of justice in America.”

Mass incarceration can be a thing of the past, but actions must be taken in order to make it a reality.  Together, we can make a difference.

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