Tuesday, April 26, 2005

US incarceration rate climbs

The US penal system, the world's largest, maintained its steady growth in 2004, the US Department of Justice reported.

The latest official half-yearly figures found the nation's prison and jail population at 2,131,180 in the middle of last year, an increase of 2.3 per cent over 2003.

The United States has incarcerated 726 people per100,000 of its population, seven to 10 times as many as most other democracies.

The rate for England is 142 per 100,000, for France 91 and for Japan 58.

The figures issued by the department's statistical unit showed that 12.6 per cent of black males in their late 20s were behind bars.

The comparable rate for Hispanic males was 3.6 per cent and for whites 1.7 per cent.

"Unless we promote alternatives to prison, the nation will continue to lead the world in imprisonment," said

Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, a [stink]-tank that studies prison issues.

According to the Justice Department, violent crime in the United States fell by over 33 per cent from 1994 to 2003 and property crimes fell by 23 per cent.

Yet the prison population has continued to climb, increasing an annual average of 3.5 per cent since 1995, partly due to high recidivism.

Within three years of their release, two of every three prisoners are back behind bars.

Criminologists attribute the growth in the prison population to "get tough on crime" policies that have subjected hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug and property offenders to long mandatory sentences.

"We have to be concerned about an overloaded system which sentences many offenders quickly and is not doing a good job of sorting out people who should be incarcerated from people for whom other responses would produce better, less expensive results," said

Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington [stink]-tank.

The rise in the prison population varies by state.

Since 1998, 12 states experienced stable or declining incarceration rates but crime rates in those states declined at the same rate as in the other 38.

Texas, with 704 per 100,000 people in state prisons, incarcerates almost seven times as many as Maine, at 149 per 100,000.

It costs around $22,000 to lock up one person for a year.

The United States spends about $57 billion annually on its prison and jail system.

Women remain the fastest-growing segment of the prison population, increasing by 2.9 per cent over the year to over 103,000.

In 1980, the United States imprisoned 12,000 women.

In addition, the United States jails around 283,000 people with serious mental illnesses and almost 92,000 foreigners.

By Just Us posted 26 April 05


Marriage Programs Try to Instill Bliss and Stability Behind Bars
US: OKLAHOMA CITY, April 12 - Marriage anxiety has gripped much of the heartland, and in Oklahoma it has reached into the cellblock in perhaps the most unexpected permutation of the state's six-year effort to bolster wedded bliss.

Unlock the Box:
Unlock the Box is a product of many years of struggle to shut down the Security Housing Units in California. During this time, the United Front to Abolish the SHU was created as a forum to coordinate the actions of everyone involved in this campaign.

ACLU Report: U.S. Drug Laws Harm Women
NEW YORK - America's war on drugs is inflicting deep and disproportionate harm on women - most of them mothers - who are filling prisons in ever-rising numbers despite their typically minor roles in drug rings, the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups contend in a major new report.

Most women 'should not be jailed'
The Howard League for Penal Reform said jail should be reserved for women who commit serious or violent offences and remain a danger to the public.

Deaths in isolation as prison segregation increases
The use of segregation of prisoners as punishment has been increasing recently in Australia, the US, and the UK. Segregation can be used for protection or punishment, but in both cases it results in extreme psychological stress. An indication that segregation is being over-used is the appearance of deaths in custody from suicide of those placed in segregation.

Unlocking the System
Four young people died in California's youth prisons last year, including Durrell Feaster, 18, and Deon Whitfield, 17, both of whom committed suicide by hanging themselves with bedsheets. In April of 2004, the release of a "Rodney-King-style" security video that showed prison staff restraining and viciously beating youth - punching one 28 times in the face - and later spraying them with chemicals, made national news. Since then, young men and women have also filed suit for sexual assault by prison staff.

US Challenges of Parole Denials rejected
The California Supreme Court decided Monday to limit sharply the ability of inmates to challenge parole denials, ruling that the parole board has the right to keep a convict in prison simply because of the nature of the crime that sent him there.

He Did Time, So He's Unfit to Do Hair
She has managed to turn life in federal prison into a nifty career move. Her company's stock is soaring, and she has plans for not one but two television shows. It almost makes you wonder why the Enron types are fighting so hard to stay out of jail.

New Strategies for Curbing Recidivism
US: State and federal lawmakers are finally realizing that controlling prison costs means controlling recidivism - by helping newly released people establish viable lives once they get out of jail.

Prison System Fails Women, Study Says
State policies designed for violent men make female offenders' rehabilitation difficult, an oversight panel finds. "If we fail to intervene effectively in the lives of these women and their children now, California will pay the cost for generations to come," said Commissioner Teddie Ray, chairwoman of the subcommittee that produced the report.

Child Offenders on Death Row
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon address the constitutionality of the death penalty for 17-year-old offenders based on scientific research that shows the human brain, particularly for males, continues to evolve in adolescence, reaching biological maturity at 21 or 22. The last regions to develop govern the mental ability to control impulses, planning, consideration of consequences, abstract reasoning and most probably moral judgement.

Race-Based Prison Policy Is Under Justices' Scrutiny
US: WASHINGTON, A California prison policy of temporarily segregating all new and newly transferred inmates by race came under attack at the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a case that pits the justices' tradition of deferring to prison administrators against their dislike of government policies that classify people by race.

Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates
US: The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.

DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship
Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.

How Denying the Vote to Ex-Offenders Undermines Democracy
For starters, hundreds of thousands of people who are still eligible to vote will not do so this year because they will be locked up in local jails, awaiting processing or trials for minor offenses.

Abu Ghraib, USA
When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.

Restorative Justice and the Law
To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."-- Marilyn vos Savant.

Restorative Justice Practices
Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America. This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America. The series is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather a broad thematic overview. A related eForum article, "The Wet'suwet'en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program: Restorative Practices in British Columbia, Canada," can be read at:

From Terrell Unit in Texas to Abu Ghraib Doesn't It Ring a (Prison) Bell If the president wasn't so forthright about his disinterest in the world, it would have been hard to believe him Wednesday when he said the abuse in Abu Ghraib prison "doesn't represent the America I know."

The Long Trail to Apology
Native America: All manner of unusual things can happen in Washington in an election year, but few seem so refreshing as a proposed official apology from the federal government to American Indians - the first ever - for the "violence, maltreatment and neglect" inflicted upon the tribes for centuries.

Judged Forever- The Orange County Register
California's largest job-placement program for parolees will be shut down May 31 after an Orange County Register investigation found that ex-convicts were sent to questionable jobs and that the state was charged for placements that did not occur.