Mass Incarceration: Why Does The U.S. Jail So Many People?

the United States is exceptional at

least when it comes to being the world's

biggest jailer 2.2 million people are

imprisoned in the u.s. more than in any

country in the world more than even

China who Dwarfs US population wise when

you count the people who aren't just

incarcerated but on probation or parole

the numbers skyrockets to six point nine

million that's one in 35 American adults

caught up in the prison system and for

people of color it's even worse one out

of every three African American men born

today will go to jail or prison at some

point in their lives but why how did the

so-called land of the free put so many

of its own citizens behind bars if you

think it was always like this it wasn't

back in the 1960s our incarceration

rates were the same as Europe and if you

think there's just more crime here

that's not true either

our crime rates are pretty much on par

with the rest of the Western world

I asked Elysia Santo a staff writer at

the Marshall project for some insight

the reason that America has the highest

incarceration rate to put it simply it's

tough on crime policies over the past

few decades a number of very harsh

policies have been enacted in state and

federal legislatures a lot of these had

to do with longer sentences some of

these had to do with so-called

three-strikes laws which basically said

that if you got in trouble three times

you had to be in prison regardless often

how petty those crimes were to get a

sense of how prison happy Americans are

consider that in Germany only six

percent of people convicted get locked


compare that to 70 percent of people

convicted in the US and Americans wind

up behind bars for longer the average

sentence in the u.s. is three years

that's three times longer than in

Germany harsh drug laws are also part of

the top

the 1986 anti-drug Abuse Act instituted

a mandatory minimum sentence of five

years without parole for possession of

five grams of crack guess how much

cocaine you had to possess to trigger

the same minimum sentence 500 grams

interesting when you look at who

consumed each drug more even though the

law was recently relaxed we're still

dealing with its effect and overall

black and white people use drugs at the

same rate but black men are almost 12

times more likely than white men to go

to prison on drug offences finally when

it comes to our soaring prison

population mental health also plays a

role about half of all incarcerated

people suffer mental health problems for

10 to 25% of all prisoners that means

serious mental illnesses like

schizophrenia or bipolar disorder drug

and alcohol dependence is also common

and instead of getting help many

mentally ill people cycle through the

system over and over again but it's not

just the mentally ill who struggled to

escape the cycle being convicted of a

felony can follow someone long after

their time is served

it can make getting a job housing and an

education even harder and it also often

means losing the right to vote in

Florida and Virginia both key swing

states and national elections more than

one in five black people are

disenfranchised but the prison boom

hasn't been so bad for everyone private

prison corporations like Corrections

Corporation of America and geo group are

actually profiting from it the

Corrections Corporation of America made

1.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2014

alone this is all part of what's called

the prison industrial complex and when

one in 35 of us is directly caught up in

it you got

just how free are

the words jail in prison are often used

interchangeably but actually describe

two different kinds of institutions in

the u.s. the main difference between

them is