Our country has an “overcriminalization” problem and an “overincarceration” problem — and it’s getting worse.
It’s long past time to fix the American justice system at the federal, state, and local levels. The U.S. is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but makes up 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500 percent increase over the past thirty years.
It’s growing at an unsustainable rate — costing Americans $80 billion per year to support this bloated and ineffective system.
More than 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities.
At the federal level, the prison population increased from approximately 25,000 to 219,000 individuals over the last two decades — an astounding 790 percent jump. And, 60 percent of those currently incarcerated in federal prisons are non-violent offenders. At the local level, jails process nearly 12 million people per year, and have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Nationally, African Americans are jailed at almost four times the rate of white Americans.
Between 70 million and 100 million — or 1 in 3 of all American adults — now have a criminal record, which carries lifelong barriers that can block successful re-entry and participation in society because of restrictions on employment, housing, and voting. Over-incarceration contributes to a cycle of poverty that traps individuals, families, and entire communities for generations.