No, I am not writing about the BCS football rankings, which are a mess after the upsets yesterday. In between all the games, I managed to hear an interview with Lisa Ling about her upcoming show “Incarcerated in America” on the OWN network tonight. Since OWN is not among the 200 stations we have access to at home, I thought a little research was in order.
A few years back, I travelled with friends Joe and Andrea Shelton to Angola Prison in Louisiana, the largest maximum security facility in the world, I believe. Of the more 5000 inmates, approximately 75% are lifers and in Louisiana, life means life. More than 90% of the inmates who enter Angola die there.
I wrote an article on my experience then. http://www.oglethorpe.edu/about_us/Our_president/Angola_prison.asp
But here are some mind-blowing updates:
1. The USA leads the world in the number of incarcerated people: more than two million.
2. One quarter of all those we put in prison are convicted of drug offenses.
3. In federal prision, that number is 50%, about 100,000 people. That’s up 30% since 2000.
4. The number of inmates in state prison for drugs grew over 500% in the last 20 years.
And if those numbers are not sobering enough, try this one:
By age 14, more than half of African-American children born to high school dropouts will have a father in jail.
Perhaps the War on Drugs we have been fighting for decades is not working so well. It costs far more to imprison someone than to educate them. Now there’s a budget-saving idea for the super-committee!