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The US is ranked #1 in some impressive areas but being #1 for incarceration isn’t something to brag about. In fact, more than 1 in every 100 adults in America are incarcerated at any given time. In some states such as Louisiana as many as 1 in 55 adults are incarcerated at any time. But even in states with fewer incarcerations like Maine, 1 in 226 are still incarcerated. In light of such numbers it isn’t surprising that the US has 25% of the world’s incarcerated population even though the US only makes up around 5% of the population globally.

Despite the huge population of incarcerated people it is far from a representative portion of the population. While the national average is 1 in 100, only 1 in 106 is a white male. Shockingly, 1 in 15 Black men are incarcerated. This is like 2 people out of every classroom. Comparatively 1 in 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated fully 300% more than their white counterparts.

The actual breakdown tells more of the story. Even though more Black and Hispanic men are incarcerated total they don’t actually dominate the prison population. Whites make a large percentage of people in prison making up 34.72% of the population, and Hispanics make up 18.26%. Unsurprisingly Blacks still make up the largest one ethnicity at 43.91% of the population of incarcerated persons. With only 3.11% combined for other ethnicities. In total we have 2.3 million people in prison in the US which is roughly 10% of our population.

To give some weight to these numbers if we compare this to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have some 435 times that number incarcerated right now. Obviously we have a problem especially since 51.8% of those incarcerated who are released wind up right back in prison within 3 years, even though the average prison sentence is only 5 years. While these numbers represent people and we should remember that, there are also some very real monetary costs to consider.

Consider firstly the yearly tax burden of the average US household which is roughly $19,000. Comparatively, it costs $23,876 a year to house, feed, and care for an inmate. To give more perspective most parents spend $7,000 per child on education and close to $9,000 in healthcare costs per person. In light of such numbers no one should be shocked to find out that we spent $44 Billion on corrections in 2007 alone.

See Also

Local Corrections Schools