Pubdate: Fri, 02 May 2003
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Contact:  2003, The Times and Democrat
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


For the first time -- in history, so far as we can determine -- the jail 
and prison population in the United States now exceeds 2 million. The U.S. 
Department of Justice reports that as of June 30, 2002; this is nearly a 
year ago.

There's no indication that the population behind bars has since decreased. 
Since more than two-thirds of the number incarcerated in state jails and 
federal prisons rose between June 2001 and June 2002, continuing an unhappy 
situation that began in July 1990, we suspect that the increase has endured.

The United States still has the largest prison population of any developed 
nation in the world. Executive Director Malcolm Young of the Sentence 
Project declared: "The relentless increases in prison and jail populations 
can best be explained as the legacy of an entrenched infrastructure of 
punishment that has been embedded in the criminal justice system over the 
last 30 years." His group promotes prison alternatives, blaming prison 
government policy for the increase, despite sharp drops reported in violent 
crime in the last 10 years. Justice figures released regularly since 1994 
support this.

The prison population statistics show females totaling 96,099. California 
with 160,315 inmates and Texas with 156,131 are rapidly closing in on the 
federal total of 161,681 imprisoned, the largest number in any system. In 
racial terms, the report said 12 percent of black males, 4 percent of 
Hispanic males and 1.6 percent of white males in their 20s or early 30s are 

The 2000 Census for South Carolina showed the state's population at near 4 
million. Nearly 22,000 people are incarcerated. Almost 38,000 are on 
probation or parole. The Census indicated the population grew 1.2 percent 
from 1998 to 1999. The S.C. prison population grew 3.6 percent in 1998 alone

In 1998, South Carolina ranked fifth nationally for its rate of 
incarceration: 550 imprisoned per 100,000 residents.

Building and operating jails and prisons are costly and tax-consuming. Is 
the United States really so crime-ridden that we must jail so many? 
Alternatives are worth more study, not only by "do-gooders" but also by 
attorneys, law enforcers, politicians and the public.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom