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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 156749 Find in a Library
Title: Americans Behind Bars: Why More People Are Locked Up Here Than in Any Other Nation
Journal: Criminal Justice  Volume:6  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1992)  Pages:12,14-18,38-39
Author(s): M Mauer
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 8
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the fact and the causes of America's high incarceration rate (highest in the world) compared to the second and third highest (South Africa and the Soviet Union) and proposes policies to address this situation.
Abstract: This analysis examines the number of incarcerated adults in each of the three countries, both those awaiting trial and sentenced offenders, and then divides this figure by the country's population to obtain an overall rate of incarceration. Under this analysis, the United States now has the world's highest known rate of incarceration, with 426 inmates per 100,000 population; this compares with South Africa's rate of 333 per 100,000, and the Soviet Union's rate of 268 per 100,000 population. African-American males in the United States are incarcerated at a rate four times that of black males in South Africa: 3,109 per 100,000 compared to 729 per 100,000. The causes of this high incarceration rate relate to crime rates and criminal justice policies. The United States does have a high rate of serious crimes, but the increase in the U.S. inmate population in recent years is a consequence of harsher criminal justice policies. These policies include mandatory minimum sentences, restrictive parole policies, sentencing guidelines, and other policies. Nine recommendations are proposed. They include the establishment of a national commission to examine the high rate of incarceration of Americans, African-American males in particular; a General Accounting Office study of the social and economic factors related to crime; the funding of pilot programs to reduce the high incarceration rate for African- American males; and the redirection of the war on drugs to define drug abuse as a public health problem rather than primarily a criminal justice problem.
Main Term(s): Correctional reform
Index Term(s): Black/African Americans; Corrections policies; Prison overcrowding
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