The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars, almost one in every 100 Americans. The U.S. prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and one in nine black children has a parent in jail.
Proportionally, the United States has four times as many prisoners as Israel, six times as many as Canada or China, eight times as many as Germany and 13 times as many as Japan…
There’s also a national election in the United States soon. This issue isn’t on the agenda. It’s almost never come up with Republican presidential candidates; one of the few exceptions was at a debate in September when the audience cheered the notion of executions in Texas.
Barack Obama, the first black president, rarely mentions this question or how it disproportionately affects minorities. More than 60 percent of the United States’ prisoners are black or Hispanic, though these groups comprise less than 30 percent of the population.
The fact that this isn’t even part of the political discourse is very interesting in itself. I suspect it is because that no politician can afford to look even somewhat soft on crime. Why is this? Two quick reasons not mentioned in this article:
1. We tend to emphasize punitive punishments in the United States. Not all countries have this same belief – Norway is a good example of a contrasting approach.
2. Crime is so sensationalized and the average citizen really does believe that they are at risk. If people really think they could be victims at any time, it is little surprise that we put so much money into fighting crime and housing prisoners.
And, as the article suggests, there is no arguing that race and social class play a role.