In America, more than 2.3 million people are behind bars. America also has the highest incarceration rate of any country, and this has really taken its toll on the economy. Even though prisons are overcrowded, crime has dropped a huge amount over the past 30 years.
A Brennan Centre report suggests that when incarceration rates are low, putting even more people behind bars can have an effect on crime. The effect soon wears off however because the more people you put in prison, not many of them are actually hardened criminals. Being in prison can also turn petty criminals into hardened ones.
According to the news report, 14 states have managed to partially reverse the prison overcrowding trend. They cut down crime as well as imprisonment, and New York managed to drop their imprisonments by over 26% while property crimes reduced by over 28%.
Unlike many prisons which are run by state governments, American prisons are often run by counties, which hold inmates who are awaiting trial for what may seem like a relatively minor crime.
The Vera Report shows that over 11.7 million people were sent to jail in 2013. Most of this is because of drug charges; however reports also show that there are a considerable amount of people in jail who have a mental illness. In fact, studies show that over 60% of people have reported a mental health problem in the last year.
Over the last few years, more and more people are becoming aware of the destructive effects that mass incarceration can have. They have also become aware of how expensive it is and how much justice it actually serves. Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia Economics Professor has stated that the U.S has limited resources, and that it’s important to work together instead of funding policies that destroy human potential through mass incarceration.