By Christie Donner
National and state perspective on incarceration rates The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world. Colorado’s incarceration rate1 of 506 per 100,000 is much greater than the 50-state average (462) and the average of the Western states (458.) In comparison, countries around the world have adult incarceration rates that
are far lower: South Africa (344), Israel (209), Mexico (191), England/Wales (145), Australia (120), China (118), Canada (116), Germany (97), France (88), Sweden (81) and Japan (60).2
In 2008, the Pew Center on the States released a national report that one in 100 adults in the United States are behind bars either in jail or prison.3 In a 2009 update to that report, Pew reported an even more startling statistic: one in 31 adults in the United States is currently under some form of criminal justice control either on probation, parole, or incarcerated in jail or prison.4 Colorado’s state profile indicates that one in 29 adults is under some form of criminal justice control.
According to Pew, “The explosive prison growth of the past 30 years didn’t happen by accident, and it wasn’t driven primarily by crime rates or broad social and economic forces beyond the reach of state governments. It was the direct result of sentencing, release and other correctional practices that determine who goes to prison and how long they stay.” 6
Recently, Senator Jim Webb (D, Va) appealed broadly to the American public in an article he wrote for PARADE magazine in which he stated, “[e]ither we are the most evil people on earth or we are doing something very wrong.”7
Senator Webb introduced federal legislation this March that will create a national commission to look at every aspect of the criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom.8 Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy commented on the extraordinary rate of incarceration in this country in a speech before the American Bar Association in which he said, “[o]ur resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long.”9
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
By Christie Donner