"There is no other society in the history of humanity that has imprisoned more people than the United States. With only five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses over twenty percent of the world’s prison- ers.1 This is a larger prison population than that of the top thirty-five European countries combined.2 In proportion to its total population, the U.S. incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and twelve times more than Japan.3 Moreover, sixty percent of this correctional population comes from a racial or ethnic minority group.4
Our obsession with locking people up in the U.S. doesn’t come cheap. States spend more than fifty billion dollars a year on their correctional systems.5 This does not include the tens of billions of dollars spent by the federal govern- ment to police, prosecute, and imprison individuals. Last year, the Department of Justice’s budget was nearly thirty billion dollars, with six billion dollars going to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Our tax dollars support a vast network of prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and asso- ciated personnel that maintain over seven million people under state and federal supervision.6 By comparison, in 1965 there were 780,000 adults under correctional authority of any type."
"The poverty-stricken, the homeless, the young, queer people, people of color, gender non-conforming people, the mentally ill, the undocumented, addicts, and increasingly women: these are the faces of our prison population. By creating laws that specifically target these groups, our gov- ernment essentially establishes a carceral nation. Instead of spending money on drug treatment programs, meaning- ful employment initiatives, health care, affordable hous- ing and public education, our tax dollars funnel the most vulnerable populations into the prison system so that they may languish with little-to-no access to needed resources. Despite repeated findings that there is no real correlation between incarceration and the country’s crime rate, we insist on imprisonment as our first, and really our only, response to all kinds of harm."