With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. now houses almost a quarter (2.3 million!) of the world’s prisoners. One in 100 adults in the U.S. is now behind bars and 751 people are in U.S. prisons or jails for every 100,000 in population.
The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close to that rate of incarceration is Russia with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. England’s rate is 151, Germany’s is 88 and Japan’s is 63.
Attempting to keep all of this in perspective, Pepperdine University’s James Q. Wilson provides this recent op-ed that puts the U.S. incarceration rate in a more favorable light with regard to reducing serious crime.
Among other things, these incarceration numbers certainly makes one wonder why on earth we are sending folks like Jeff Skilling, the NatWest Three, the Nigerian Barge defendants and Jamie Olis to prison?
Meanwhile, in this five-part LA Times debate, Reason’s Jacob Sullum takes on the Heritage Foundation’s Charles Stimson over one of the main reasons for the high U.S. incarceration rate — drug prohibition.
At least in this first installment, Sullum makes a much more compelling case than Stimson. And Peter Gordon has this sage observation about the genesis of drug prohibition.