US Prison Population: The Largest in the World
The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—more even than China or Russia. In fact, more people are in prisons in the United States than in all other developed countries combined. Professor Daniel J. D’Amico explains that as of 2010 over 1.6 million people were serving jail sentences in America.
What does this say about the United States? Professor D’Amico suggests that “prisons are not what we think about when we think of America, and they shouldn’t have to be.” According to D’Amico, a free country should not have 1.6 million people in prison, and a fiscally responsible country cannot afford to. As Prof. D’Amico points out, it is time for Americans to recognize that the U.S. criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform.
1. “The Caging of America” [article]: Wide ranging New Yorker piece, discusses history, ethics, everyday prisoner experience. Explores a few theories as to why our prison system is the way it is.
2. “The Business Ethics of Incarceration: The Moral Implications of Treating Prisons Like Businesses” [scholarly article]: Professor D’Amico addresses the economics and morality of prison and prison privatization.
3. “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations” [article]: New York Times article focusing on America’s disproportionate prison population.
4. “Prisoners’ Poetry” [poems]: A website featuring poems written by prisoners.
1. What are the causes for the unusually high incarceration rate in the United States?
2. Do you think prisons are an effective way of handling crime?
3. What alternatives or reforms to the current prison system can you imagine for handling crime more effectively?