Incarceration Nation

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THE UNITED STATES has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In fact, according to the most recent data, the U.S., while having only 4.5% of the world’s population, holds 21 percent of the world’s prisoners. The last few years have shown a slight decrease in incarceration rates, but law enforcement policies continue to both target racial minorities and to foster high recidivism rates. And with the rise of private, for-profit prisons, putting Americans behind bars is becoming an increasingly lucrative business.

■ U.S. jails and prisons currently house 2.3 million people – and one in every 33 adults is behind bars or on probation or parole.

■ Since 2002, the number of inmates housed in for-profit prisons increased 37%, while the number detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in for-profit prisons increased 206 percent.

■ In 2011, over 70% of people sentenced in federal criminal cases were people of color. More than 34% of prosecuted criminal cases were immigration-related, and  percent were drug-related. Fraud, the third most common offense, made up less than 10 percent of federal criminal cases.

■ Approximately 700,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year, and more than 40% of them are re-incarcerated within three years of their release.

■ The national unemployment rate is 7.8%, but even before the recession, unemployment was roughly 75% for ex-offenders in the year after release.