Thursday, February 19, 2015

Assault of the statistical sort: Numbers and commentary from Just Mercy

My reading in the past two weeks has included statistics – and commentary on them –that found surprising and overwhelming.  I feel like I’ve been hit. Here’s are a few examples, quotes taken from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption 
  • ·      The prison population has increased from 300,00 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today.
  • ·      One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.

  • ·      Spending on Jails and prisons by state and federal governments has risen from 6.9 billion in 1980 to nearly $80 billion today. Private prison builders and prison service companies have spent millions of dollars to persuade state and local governments to create new crimes, impose harsher sentences, and keep more people locked up so that they can earn more profits.  … The privatization of prison health care, prison commerce, and a range of service has made mass incarceration a money-making windfall for a few and a costly nightmare for the rest of us.
  • ·      Today, over 50 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States have a mental illness, a rate nearly five times greater than that of the general adult population.
  • ·      Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened in the United States every 10 days.  Prison growth and the resulting “prison-industrial complex” – the business interest that capitalize on prison construction – made imprisonment so profitable that millions of dollars were spent lobbying state legislators to keep expanding the use of incarceration to respond to just about any problem.

And now, having finished this book about incarceration in the United Sates, I’m onto Bessel van der Kolk’s new book, The Body Keeps the Score, about how trauma is stored in the boy.  More to follow – if I am not too traumatized by so much serious non-fiction.

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