Introduction Innocent people
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, Innocent people with 716 people in prison for every 100,000 residents. That’s nearly five times the rate of countries like Germany or France and nearly triple that of Canada or Great Britain.
The number is even higher if you include people who are awaiting trial (which means they’re innocent until proven guilty). The U.S. also has more prisoners than China does—about 700% more prisoners than China has.
And while there are some reasons why we should be proud of our record-high incarceration rate (for example, we imprison fewer women than many other countries), this statistic raises questions about what’s going on with our criminal justice system.
What’s causing all these people to get locked up? Are some groups being targeted unfairly? And what can be done to reduce America’s prison population by 50% over the next 10 years—as President Obama announced he wanted last month.
The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Who are these people? They’re not the violent criminals that we’ve come to expect prison time to be reserved for. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more prisoners than any other country—China, Russia, and 40 other countries combined.
- How did this happen? In 1974, Congress passed a law that established mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. This law also created three-strikes laws: if you commit three felonies or violent crimes (like murder), you will receive a life sentence without parole.
- What can be done about it? People of color have been affected by these policies disproportionately due to their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system; African Americans make up 13% of America’s population but 34% of its prison population.
The number of Innocent people in prison for nonviolent crimes is higher than ever.
I’m sure you’re aware that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. But do you know how many people we incarcerate?
We lock up 2.2 million people every year, or one out of every 100 Americans. That number is greater than the population of Los Angeles combined with New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.
More than half are black or Latino men, even though they make up only 35% of the general population. In fact, if white men were incarcerated at a rate equal to their share of America’s population (63%), only 1 in 28 would be behind bars today instead of 1 in 9 (1).
So why is this happening?
Overcrowding is a problem in many Innocent people prisons.
Overcrowding is a problem in many prisons across America. In New York, entire prison facilities are being converted into tent cities because the state can’t afford to build new ones. One facility, the George Motchan Detention Center on Rikers Island, has had to house nearly 1,000 inmates in tents.
Another facility, the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), was built for 778 inmates but currently houses 1,500 people. To solve this issue and improve conditions for inmates at OPP and other facilities around Louisiana with similar issues of overcrowding and underfunding.
including Angola State Penitentiary—the state has been forced to house prisoners at schools and churches instead of constructing additional buildings on site. or building more space off-site altogether somewhere else nearby like they did previously with Angola’s current facility. located just outside Baton Rouge when they ran out of room inside their then-existing prison walls after too many prisoners were sent there during World War II.
When Europe started getting bombed pretty heavily by Nazi aircraft it meant that prisoners couldn’t be released until after WWII ended. Because everyone wanted them kept locked up so badly back then even though it wasn’t fair.
Because they hadn’t done anything wrong yet anyway besides being born black or poor so maybe it wasn’t right either way since no one likes being persecuted unjustly. even though this happened long ago some people still say things should change now especially since things haven’t gotten better yet.”
Some states have “three-strikes” laws that punish offenders who have committed three felonies.
You may have heard of “three-strikes laws,” which are used in some states to require that criminals who have committed three felonies receive life sentences without parole. These laws originated with California’s “Three Strikes” Law, which passed in 1994. The law mandates that a person who has committed two serious felonies must be given a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life upon conviction of a third felony.
In 2017, there were over 2 million people behind bars in America—that’s more than any other country on Earth. And while the US prison population is much smaller than it was 20 years ago (down from 1 million), the number of people who have been convicted and incarcerated for nonviolent crimes continues to grow every year.
People convicted of nonviolent crimes are sometimes sentenced to life in prison without parole, or LWOP.
In the United States, people can be sentenced to life without parole, or LWOP. This means that the person will spend their entire lives behind bars and never be able to leave prison; they will die in prison.
It’s a sentence that is often given to people who have committed serious crimes like murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. It’s also given for nonviolent crimes such as theft or drug dealing (see below).
These sentences are usually given to people with a history of serious crime or violence in their past. But some people have been given these sentences for minor drug crimes like selling marijuana or cocaine.
People convicted of minor drug offenses may spend years in jail before going to trial because they can’t afford bail.
If you’re arrested on a minor drug charge, like marijuana possession, the court may require you to post bail before going to trial. Bail is a guarantee that you will appear in court on a specific date and pay a fine if found guilty. If you can’t afford bail because of financial hardship or other reasons, you may have to wait in jail until your trial date.
A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 91% of people who were jailed before their trial were not convicted and released without having paid any fines or fees.
—but they lost an average of 11 months behind bars before being cleared of any wrongdoing at all. That’s almost two years! With such little chance for release from jail prior to trial, many people simply plea guilty because it’s easier than sitting behind bars for months or years awaiting trial.
Jails often fail to provide inmates with adequate healthcare.
Perhaps the most important reason why innocent people are being jailed is that jails often fail to provide inmates with adequate healthcare. In fact, jails can be dangerous places for people with mental health issues.
According to a 2017 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, “a substantial proportion of mentally ill persons in jails have been incarcerated for minor offenses, such as public drunkenness or disorderly conduct due in part to lack of community services available to them.”
The lack of proper healthcare in jails has serious consequences for inmates with mental health issues.The suicide rate among people who spend time in jail is three times higher than it is among those who are never incarcerated (48% vs 16%).
Furthermore, a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that inmates who receive medication while incarcerated were less likely to commit another crime after release than those who did not receive medication while incarcerated.
Even though the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners
You may think that the U.S. has a lot of people in prison because it has a lot of violent criminals and a lot to lose if they’re allowed to walk free. But according to The Sentencing Project, an organization that promotes reform in sentencing laws and practices. “the U.S. leads the world in incarceration rates,” with 2 million adults behind bars on any given day.
Even though this country only holds 5% of the world’s population, 25% of its prisoners are incarcerated here. and some states have even higher rates than others: Louisiana houses more than 1 out every 100 adults; Mississippi’s rate is nearly double that number.
As our population ages, prisons will become increasingly overcrowded as well—a problem exacerbated by mandatory sentencing laws like “three-strikes” which punish offenders who have committed three felonies (even nonviolent ones).
In the United States, our prison system is failing. It’s costing us billions of dollars every year and it’s hurting the people who are incarcerated, their families, and their communities. The way we treat people who have committed crimes should reflect our values as a society. We need to reform our criminal justice system so that it works for everyone—not just those who can afford good lawyers or fancy lawyers at all.