by Karena Balagula, Los Angeles, CA
America is a one of a kind country. One of the things we stand out the most for is our massive incarceration rate. But can it really be that many people incarcerated? The answer is yes. The American criminal justice system holds a whopping 2.4 million people. That is a 500% increase over the past 30 years. Out of every 100,000 people 693 people are incarcerated in the United States. States such as Georgia and Louisiana lock up more than one in every 100 residents. There is an average of up to 1000 students in each high school in the United States. Imagine 10 of your classmates being imprisoned. People go to jail 10.6 million times each year. We hear statistics like these and most of the time they hold no meaning to us. We don't truly know the tragedy in those numbers. 325.7 million people live in the United States alone. Every single year there is an average of almost 11 million cases of people going to jail. In about 29 years one could say that the entire United States population has been in jail. The average life expectancy of an American is almost 79 years. In your lifetime alone the whole population could've gone to prison about 3 times. That being said while the United States only makes up 5% of the world's population, we make up 25% of the world's prisoners. It is important to emphasize that out of every four prisoners, one of them is from the United States. If these statistics aren't upsetting to you that is a problem. From these statistics, it can be inferred that you have a high chance of knowing someone and/or being related to someone with a criminal record.
With statistics like these, minds tend to wander to the money involved. In a report cited by eji.org "mass incarceration costs state and federal governments and American families $100 billion more each year than previously thought." $81 billion is the number for the annual cost of mass incarceration in the United States alone. People don't usually tend to realize the difference between a million and a billion. One million seconds is about 11 and a half days while one billion seconds is 11574 days. That difference is one made up of 31 years. With the amount of money being put toward the prison system you would think that they would have a high success rate of rehabilitating the people in them. As of 2017, 76% of ALL inmates end up back in jail within the short time of 5 years. Clearly our current programs aren't as effective as they should be.