Although it is known as the Land of the Free, the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. According to the most recent statistics, some 2.2 million Americans are currently behind bars. What accounts for this massive population in jails and prisons in America? Here are four of the main reasons that the Land of the Free is swamped with prisoners.
The US Constantly Imprisons People for Non-Violent Offenses
Although almost every country in the world sticks to a uniform policy of imprisoning violent criminals, many do not level prison sentences at those convicted for nonviolent crimes. Crimes such as possession of drugs that would earn fines or mandatory treatment requirements in other countries can lead to lengthy prison sentences in America.
High Bail Requirements Drive Up Jail Populations
The number of people behind bars in the United States includes not only prisoners but also those in jail awaiting their court dates. In many cases, these people could hypothetically be released on bail. However, because bail amounts can reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars, many people have difficulty gathering together enough money. For those who are facing this situation, the only available options are usually getting bail bonds and remaining in jail until the court date arrives.
US Sentences Are Often Longer
One of the many factors that have driven up the US prison population over the years is the fact that prison sentences in the United States are often longer than in other countries. In fact, thanks in large part to the application of minimum sentencing requirements, American prison sentences have been getting longer for the past few decades. Because it takes longer for prisoners to be released than for new prisoners to be brought in, this naturally drives up the prison population over time.
American Prisoners Are More Likely to Be Repeat Offenders
The rate of repeat offenses on the part of released prisoners, known technically as recidivism, is higher in America than in many other economically developed countries. In part, this is due to low investment in prisoner rehabilitation. Repeat offenders tend to receive longer sentences for their subsequent crimes and, in turn, spend more of their lives as part of America’s ever-growing population of prisoners.
These are just a few of the many reasons that American has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Unfortunately, if the forces that have led to a prison population of 2.2 million people remain unchecked, there is little reason to believe that this problem will do anything but get worse in the future.
Author Info: Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn’t on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @RachelleWilber.