With 2.3 million Americans in prison, the U.S has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Prisons and jails have become the new repository for the poor, uneducated and people with mental illness. The U.S. prison population has expanded at an unprecedented rate over the last 40 years. We house 25 percent of the world’s prison population but only account for 5 percent of its total population. Approximately 1 in 100 American adults is currently behind bars, and about 1 in 33 is either in prison, jail or on parole or probation.
Over the last 30 years the population of the prison system has increased exponentially, nearly 800 percent, largely due to the over-representation of those convicted of drug offenses, many of whom are low-level and non-violent offenders. 66% of inmates are doing time on drug related charges. It costs approximately $25,000 a year to incarcerate a low-level non-violent offender as an inmate and that’s only if she or he is in good health, after all court cost have been completed. It cost approximately $75,000 a year to incarcerate a violent offender as an inmate and court cost can even sometimes reach $1,000,000 after all appeals have been exhausted.
Corrections is the second fastest growing category of state budgets, behind only Medicaid. Addressing mass incarceration and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system will require the continued commitment of lawmakers, judges, law enforcement, advocates and concerned citizens who recognize that the system is in need of reform. It’s time to educate ourselves about the causes of crime in America. 87% of people who commit violent crimes have some sort of mental illness that could have been treated early. A 2006 Justice Department analysis concluded that 45% of federal inmates had a mental health “problem.”
Children of prisoners are among the most at-risk population of children in our country to be involved in juvenile delinquency, gang affiliation and youth violence. This rate of incarceration is endangering children at younger and younger ages. The urgent challenge for each of us and for our nation is to prevent this waste of our children’ lives and our nation’s capabilities. Prevention programs can work; good prevention programs that are well-implemented do work. Early intervention and rehabilitation that put children onto a path to productive adulthood, long term solutions to prevent years of crime.
PPI believes in child protection and economic development. Prevention efforts are more effective than current enforcement and incarceration efforts. 82% of prisoners in America are high school drop outs. States spend only about $8,000 per year, per public school pupil. Based on a recent 2012 study from The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed that U.S. students ranked 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 20th in reading compared to 65 other countries on its educational ranking. Emphasis must be shifted for the sake of our children and our nation’s future.
PPI provides media campaigns, educational presentations and other community events that highlight crime and prison prevention. We are committed to encourage States and local governments to: Provide high quality early childhood development programs; preschool and head-start for all children. Promote learning, a good education will result in lower incarceration rates. Invest in prevention and early intervention. Encourage alternatives to incarceration for low level and non violent offenders such as restitution, community service, electronic monitoring, drug rehabilitation treatment. Provide early treatment for mental health, alcohol and drug abuse. Treatment transforms lives and has consistently proven to be effective in helping people break the cycle of addiction and to be an efficient use of tax dollars. Without treatment, people frequently end up in jail or prison. Encourage local businesses to provide career and job training for full time jobs. Reinvestment, which involves spending money on crime prevention rather than on building prisons. These programs create a more positive future for young people and save taxpayers by avoiding the costs of incarceration. Therefore making them tax paying citizens contributing to the economy.