How Crowded Are American Prisons?
The television is no short of programming related to crime and prison life in the United States. As a society we are fascinated by all of the justice and injustice, but it's curious whether or not we ever give much thought to what kind of economic impact this has on our society. Often the state that you live in determines how light or severe the penalty is for certain crimes - marijuana is a prime example because possession can result in a fine or 50 years in prison. Crime is important to consider in finance and economics because it is a drain on society both monetarily, morally and ethically.
There's quite the ripple effect when it comes to prisons and jails because you must remember that for every life behind bars that are affected, at least 20 more lives on the outside are affected as well. Friends, family and children of the imprisoned are also being harmed and hindering their productivity in society as well.
This got me wondering, just how many people in the United States are currently incarcerated? According to the Bureau of Justice, the US currently has a prison population of about 2.2 million -- this means that about 481 people are incarcerated per every 100,000 people. While this may seem respectively small, prisons in about 18 states are actually at over 100% capacity since 2014. While this is disturbing on its own, how exactly does this measure up to other parts of the world?
The World Prison Brief noted that even with a 103.9% operating capacity in its prisons, the United States ranks 113th worldwide when it comes to overcrowding. I was extremely surprised by this -- finding ways to manage crime is clearly a global problem.
So what does this look like for the other 112 countries that rank ahead of the US in overpopulated prisons? Well, consider #1 on the list, Haiti, which has by far the worst conditions operating at 454% capacity resulting in about 80-100 men being squeezed into the same cell at once. This has not only broken families apart but it has also perpetuated malnutrition and the spread of diseases. Now, before you go assuming that all Haitians are criminals and it was wise of our esteemed president to call Haiti a "sh*thole" country, consider the fact that the vast majority of Hait's inmates haven't even been convicted of a crime -- they were simply arrested and held indefinitely without proof that a crime actually happened.
The UN is aware of this and has condemned the situation in Haiti as a blatant violation of human rights. This can also be seen in a country like the Philippines, which ranks #2 on the list operating at 436% capacity. The situation there is similar to Haiti with conditions on the decline since President Rodrigo Duterte launched a war on drugs that have sent thousands more people to prison without actually being proven guilty of any crime. The jail in Quezon City is a horrible demonstration of this issue: the jail was designed to house just 262 prisoners -- today it houses over 3,000.
The graph below shows the top ten most overcrowded prisons in the world and gives you a good sense of the magnitude of the problem at hand. Human rights affect economies in a big way, and most of these countries are already suffering enough. Important work needs to be done to ensure that the issues don't get worse or, worse yet, spread to other lands.
For more information and fascinating data, be sure to visit Statista's site by CLICKING HERE.