Saturday, March 01, 2008

2.3 million Americans behind bars

Which country has the largest number of people in jail? Like me, I’d guess that most people would say China or Russia. But that’s not the case. According to a story in this morning’s Herald Tribune, the number of people in jail in the United States has reached 2.3 million – that’s one per cent of the adult population of 230 million.

It’s quite disturbing to learn that 1 in 100 adult Americans are in jail. China is a distant second with 1.5 million in jail, but of course they have four times the population.

The story was based on a just-released report by the Pew Center on the States which highlighted that the incarceration rates were even higher for some groups – 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men are behind bars, 1 in 15 adult black men and 1 in 9 black men aged 20 to 34.

I suppose these shocking figures could be a consequence of the fact that more crimes are solved in the US than in most other countries, but it is also a sad reflection of the breakdown in values in modern day America.

For a country that spends a lot of time trying to impose its own values on cultures in other parts of the world, it is not setting a very good example at home.

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