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Just the Facts: It's a Locking-People-Up Problem

The American problem with mass incarceration is less about crime than it is about how—and who—we lock up.
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The crime rate has been dropping for 15 years. But the majority of people believe it goes up every year.

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In the past 30 years, the number of people in the penal system increased much more rapidly than the population.


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The United States imprisons more people than any other country.

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And we don't imprison fairly, especially when it comes to drug laws.JTF 58 4


Fixing the prison problem could solve our money problems.

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Robby MellingerDoug Pibel

Robert Mellinger and Doug Pibel wrote this article for Beyond Prisons, the Summer 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Robert is an editorial intern at YES!, and Doug is managing editor.




Graph #1: "The crime rate has been dropping yet in the past 10 years people think it's been rising— U.S. Census Bureau "Crimes and Crime Rates by Type of Offense: 1980-2008" and Gallup Poll Social Series: Crime (2010)

Graph #2: US pop. vs. Corrections pop.— Bureau of Justice Statistics: Correctional Populations in the United States (2009) and U.S. Census Bureau National Population Estimates

Graph #3: World prison pops.— King's College London International Centre for Prison Studies: World Prison Population List (eighth edition)

Graph #4: Drug users by race— 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and "Prisoners in 2007" by Bureau of Justice Statistics, and U.S. Census Bureau National Population Estimates

Graph #5: Money— US Census Bureau 2010 Census: Total Corrections Expenditures

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