Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors
Over 5.5 million prisoners populate the five largest prison population states.
[total prisoners by country]
United States: 2,228,424
Russian Federation: 671,700
Per 100,000 citizens
United States: 707
$55 billion is spent by the US government on prisons every year
That’s $183 per man, woman, and child in the US.
Run by local jurisdictions and house those awaiting trial or serving short sentences
Run by state or federal governments for convicts with longer sentences.
And civil-commitment centers
The US incarcerates more people than any other nation in history
3/100 Americans are part of the justice system.
Federal and state prisons 1,518,559
Territorial prisons 13,576
Local jails 785,556
ICE facilities 9,957
Military facilities 1,651
Jails in tribal territories 2,135
Juvenile facilities (2007) 86,927
4.8 million adults on probation or parole
1/9 state government employees work in corrections.
With 4 prisons in America for every 1 in Russia (the second largest nation in terms of prisons).
But it wasn’t always that way
Prisoners by year:
“It took more than a century to build California’s first nine prisons and less than a decade to double them” – Angela Y Davis
History of Prisons
The Ancient World
Retribution, fines, or banishment were the price for crimes in the ancient world.
Why, any man will accept the bloodprice paid
for a brother murdered, a child done to death.
And the murderer lives in his own country —
the man has paid enough, and the injured kinsman
curbs his pride, his smoldering, vengeful spirit,
once he takes the price.
Prisons held people awaiting trial:
Male, female, debtors, murderers.
Where they would be publicly shamed.
Promoting public deterrence, and “justice.”
By ducking stool
and the stocks
The Bridewell House
Established in 1553 to:
Punish the disorderly poor
And house homeless children
With the goal of instilling habits of industry through prison labor.
Such as apprenticeships, and hard labor
Prisoners were shipped to penal colonies
Subjected to hard labor
Or kept in Prison Hulks (prison boats anchored in the Thames)
Jeremy Bentham introduced the thought that prisons should reinforce in prisoners that they are always being watched.
A dark tower at the center can watch all the prisoners, but they don’t know when they’re being watched.
So they may be returned to society as paranoid citizens.
1799: the Penitentiary Act:
Cells should be built for one inmate per cell and operate on continuous labor systems.
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Incarceration rates are meaningless. We incarcerate more people than countries like Iran and North Korea. So what? Does that mean we should model our justice system after countries like that? Those types of countries do other things besides incarceration. They make people disappear. They also keep terrible records or outright lie about the number of inmates they have. We also (unlike many countries) have the vast majority of our corrections population (up to 80+% in some states) under community supervision or alternatives to incarceration rather than locked up. This is never mentioned. After us at number 1 in incarceration, Greece… Read more »
Columbia university reports that about 85% of population of people incarcerated in this country are suffering from some form of addiction ie drug/alcohol.
Based on my observations during prison, the statistic is very credible.
The statement that we in the USA incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than other nations, causes me to ask several questions.
1. Are we a more criminal society?
1. or, do we prosecute more harshly?
Amnesty Int’l reports that fewer than 700 were executed in 2012; omitting a response from China
Thank you for your views.
Need to look for the beneficiary.
I agree. Lets deconstruct what has happened, and the history, and context, and see who was, and is, benefitting from all of this policing and incarcerating – and who is not. I am pretty sure you can see this mess from space by now. The question is how to rationally improve and restructure it and help people who are suffering under its injustice? It is dysfunctional in so many of its systems as we can see on all of the fronts from: aggressive discriminatory policing, to rubber stamping fine raising plea bargain courts, to crappy laws that do not reflect… Read more »