Mass incarceration of nations

The United States of America has the highest incarceration rates among all nations. Currently, there are close to 2.3 million imprisoned adults. Mass incarceration rates began to rise in the 1970s. It was initiated by Nixon who started the war on drugs. During President Ronald Reagan’s administration, the number of inmates doubled.

Today, the incarceration rate in the US is 15 times higher than that of Japan, nine times higher than in Germany and five times higher than in the UK. The number of inmates in California is more than the total number of inmates in France. This high number of inmates in the USA is due to the harsh policies put in place to regulate crime and drug peddling.

A high number of prisoners in the US were arrested for drug peddling or crime. Although the crime rate is reducing, the number of people getting arrested due to crimes keeps on increasing. This is due to the view that crime is a social problem that needs to be addressed and the continued obsession of the media in airing matters of crime.

Several harsh policies such as the 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton massively contributed to the growth of prison populations. The bill included a ten billion dollar budget that was allocated to the expansion of prisons and correction centers. The criminal justice systems highly discriminated against people based on their race. Out of eight people arrested, seven of them were black Americans.

Countries such as Russia and China, embrace executions and corporal punishments as a way of reducing evils in society. This helps reduce the burden of catering to overpopulated prisons. In the US, more money is spent on prisons than in education. The criminal justice system directs a lot of money to prisons and correctional centers. This burdens the taxpayer.

The US has realized that mass incarceration is burdening the nation as it does not only require financial resources to maintain prisons but also human resources such as prison wardens to supervise and watch over the prisoners. Statistics show than 40% of the prison population suffer from mental illnesses. Such people do not need to be imprisoned instead they should be offered mental health care. Over the last decade, the prison population has lowered by 10%. Harsh policies such as the crime bill that played a key role in the ballooning number of prisoners have been abolished. This move has played a key role in reducing the number of prisoners, however, it is threatened by the present leaders such as Donald Triumph and attorney general Jeff Sessions who greatly oppose these reforms.


Wildeman, Christopher, and Emily A. Wang. “Mass incarceration, public health, and widening inequality in the USA.” The Lancet 389.10077 (2017): 1464-1474.

Mauer, Marc. “Felon voting disenfranchisement: A growing collateral consequence of mass incarceration.” Fed. Sent’g Rep. 12 (1999): 248.

Majd, Katayoon. “Students of the mass incarceration nation.” Howard LJ 54 (2010): 343.

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