This is not America?

A video I created last night reading off some of the figures pasted below:

Every so often I feel the need to look into the “performance” of my nation by seeing what the current federal stats and global comparisons have to show.

Beginning with the most obvious, the U.S. is leading by a massive landslide in external debt. (You may notice on the list that the UK, Germany, France, and Japan make up the top 5, China currently ranks 22nd, India 28th, Mexico 29th, Israel 38th, Saudi Arabia 41st, Ecuador 79th, and Iran 84th.)

We’ve ranked #2 since 2000 in our per capita ecological footprint, behind United Arab Emirates, reports NationMaster.com (lots of data there to check out).

We’re ranked 55th for voter turnout in presidential elections with 67.4% registered voters showing up at the polls (sourced in 2003). (And just think, state and local elections voter turnout is even lower.)

Some information I had laying around from the Common Sense for Drug Policy site in its bulletin “International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001” reported the United States as having 689 per 100,000 citizens in prison (compared to 129 in England and Wales, 77 in France, 71 in Switzerland, 673 in Russia, 101 in Canada, 411 in South Africa, and 50 in Japan). A quick glance at Wikipedia discloses the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) data from 2009 that increased the number to 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000.

BUT WAIT. Just went looking for updated info and came across this tidbit from the BJS’ “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2010” report (pg. 2):

At year-end 2010, about 1 in every 48 adults in the U.S. was under supervision in the community on probation or parole, compared to about 1 in every 104 adults in the custody of state or federal prisons or local jails.The respective rates of supervision were 2,074 offenders in the community per 100,000 adults and 962 inmates per 100,000 adults.

[All bold and underlined emphases throughout this post will be mine]

The BJS bulletin “Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009–Statistical Tables” stated on page 2 the following:

Males were imprisoned at a rate 14 times higher than females (954 per 100,000 U.S. residents compared to 68 per 100,000 U.S. residents, respectively).

. . .

Black non-Hispanic males, with an incarceration rate of 4,749 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, were incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white non-Hispanic males (708 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents) and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males (1,822 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents).

 

Notably, the BJS website provided data (on a page since removed) claiming that in “midyear 2007 there were 4,618 black male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,747 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 773 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males.” So the rate of blacks and Hispanics imprisoned is up, while the rate of white folks imprisoned has gone slightly down.

Returning to the 2009 bulletin last linked to and quoted up above:

One in every 300 black females was incarcerated compared to about 1 in every 1,099 white females and 1 in every 704 Hispanic females.

Non-U.S. citizens made up 4.1% (94,498 inmates) of the state and federal custody population.

 

Looking into information on county and city jail inmates, the BJS had this to say in its bulletin “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2011 – Statistical Tables“:

Males accounted for 87% of the jail population on June 30, 2011 […]. Whites accounted for 45% of the total, blacks represented 38%, and Hispanics represented 15% of inmates. Fewer than 6,000 juveniles were held in local jails (or less than 1% of the confined population).

And this is why I chose to study criminal justice. It’s worthwhile coming to the realization that our system is corrupt through and through with gross inequalities and disproportionate treatment of citizens in accordance with using arbitrary criteria (such as race, ethnicity, sex) to establish targets, furthering the prevalence and impact of institutionalized racism and sexism. Why turn a blind eye to this information when it stares us in the face?

corrections_population

Originally published at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/corr2.htm (but since removed, as apparently is the case with plenty of BJS documents).

That’s not even touching on the topic of the privatization of prisons, which is discussed here in an article by Dr. Richard Culp on the Prison Legal News site titled “The Failed Promise of Prison Privatization“:

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of state prisoners placed in private prisons increased by about 25%, from 75,018 to 93,537. In the federal system, however, the number increased from 15,525 to 32,712, or about 110%. During the same period, the number of states placing some portion of their prisoners in private facilities actually declined from 30 states to 27.

There are in practice only fifty-four “customers” buying incarceration services from the private prison industry – the three federal agencies, twenty-seven state departments of correction and two dozen local jurisdictions. Within this small customer base, the federal government plus eight states (Texas, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Tennessee, California and Mississippi) collectively account for more than 70% of all private prison business. In effect, the market of buyers constitutes an oligopsony, or a market form in which only a few customers buy a certain good and therefore possess the power to affect pricing. The two largest publicly-traded private prison companies recognize their dependency on a limited number of governmental customers as a threat to their profitability and include a warning to stockholders to that effect in their annual reports.
At CCA, just three federal government agencies, the BOP, ICE and the U.S. Marshals, accounted for 43% of the company’s total revenue for fiscal year 2010, or $717.8 million.
The state of California, which is placing thousands of prisoners out-of-state in an effort to reduce in-state prison populations, provided 13% of CCA’s total revenue for fiscal year 2010, or $214 million. GEO Group reports that while they have a total of 45 governmental clients (customers), 4 of those clients accounted for over 60% of their U.S.-based revenue (BOP, ICE, U.S. Marshals and the State of Florida). Among those, the three federal agencies combined are responsible for 53% of GEO Group’s total U.S. revenue.

The oligopsony of governmental consumers serves to discourage innovation. In practice, government purchasers of incarceration services have required that private prison companies simply duplicate policies and procedures practiced in public prisons, to the effect that the standard operating procedures of most private prison programs closely mirror those of public prisons in the same state. Notably, none of the companies have distinct and viable research and development departments as would be expected in an industry that values innovation. Private prison companies encourage the adoption of public prison practice, rather than the development of innovative practice, by actively recruiting management-level staff from within the public sector.

[…]

Arguably, private prisons are not looking to be innovative unless it is a way of cutting costs. The most common way for these companies to make money from government contracts is by reducing personnel expenses. Because labor represents about 80% of the operating cost of a prison, much of the cost savings in private prisons results from paying private correctional officers less than comparable public correctional officers. But this advantage begins to erode in a market where private companies are dependent upon contract renewals (with more experienced staff) rather than new facilities (with new, entry-level staff). Even as labor rates vary among the states, public sector correctional officer starting salaries average $28,000 across all states with a (one standard deviation) range between $23,000 and $34,200. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a mean annual salary of $42,270 for all occupations in the United States (in May 2008). Public sector prison staff salaries are very low already, suggesting that it is not easy for the private sector to continue to undercut the government in personnel costs.

I plan to go into greater detail on the privatization of prisons topic at a later date.

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