A Broken System

For the first time in history, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, more than one in every 100 adults in the U.S. is in jail or prison. There has not been, however, a correlating decrease in crime. “The education system, particularly for inner-city youth where the bulk of our prisoners come from, is abysmal,” Carol Fennelly, executive director of Hope House, a Washington, D.C.-based organization supporting prisoners’ families, told Sojourners. “We need real job opportunities and a reformed society in which people don’t end up in prison in the first place.” Here are some numbers:

  • 67 percent: People released from prison who are re-arrested within three years.
  • 32 percent: Increase in federal prisoners between 2000 and 2007, which coincides with the 454 new offenses added to the federal criminal code during that same period.
  • 7.4 million. Number of people under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system in 2007.
  • 83.5 percent: People in jail in 2002 who earned less than $2,000 per month prior to arrest.
  • 64 percent: Increase in criminal justice-related government spending between 1996 and 2005, reaching a height of $213 billion in 2005.

Sources: “Moving Target: A Decade of Resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex” (Justice Policy Institute, September 2008); “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008” (The Pew Center on the States); The Washington Post.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2009
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