Many Americans believe they live in a country built on fairness and equality. Yet we incarcerate more of our citizens than China. This reflects back on who we are as a nation. Mass incarceration in this country is not only unsustainable but insures that we will increase, not diminish, the social alienation that leads young people into the criminal justice system.
America spends $70 billion annually to imprison, detain and parole its citizens while our school budgets are being cut.
The United States is the only country in the world where children as young as thirteen years old have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
What’s wrong with this picture?
For the past four decades the United States has outpaced the rest of the world in the construction of prisons.
Since the early 1970’s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million. One in every 100 Americans is in prison.
And what are the consequences of mass incarceration? A class of citizens that can’t get jobs or re-enter society. Broken families.
From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. And that only leads to more youth and minors entering the prison system.
The US currently incarcerates more youth than any other country in the world. Each year some 500,000 youth enter detention centers. This doesn’t count the nearly 40% of young people tried as adults.
How did this happen? How did the United States end up using the prison system as a way to store its underclass and ignore societal inequities? Punitive drug laws have been a major contributing factor. Politicians don’t want to look soft on crime.
But people across a wide spectrum are sitting up and taking notice. Recent studies and reports are showing that, along with the moral cost, the economic cost to America is too high. A staggering quarter billion dollars is spent annually on prisons and the accompanying police, judicial and legal services.
We at Sankofa.org do not view the for-profit prison system as the answer to our country’s problems. Moreover, we believe in and work tirelessly for the adoption of restorative justice initiatives, a process that helps offenders take responsibility for their actions and offers the best chance at rehabilitation.
Want proof about how racism factors into our criminal justice system… and more? Click here.