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Interesting Facts About the US Prison System

For many decades, one of the biggest focus areas for the US Prison System has been to make the living conditions as good as possible. Part of this is understandable since happy prisoners are less likely to riot. However, there are some surprising facts about the US prison system that most people aren’t aware of.

For example, although the US has roughly 5% of the world’s population, about 25% of the people who are in prison around the world are in US prisons. This is part of the reason that both major political parties applauded President Trump’s program of prison reform.

Of the people in prison in the US, unlike what many people might think by listening to the news media, blacks don’t dominate the prison population. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, over 58% of the prisoners are white and only 38% are black. So much for ‘white privilege’.

However, over 12% of the inmates are citizens of Mexico. That is an extraordinarily high number since, for many years, Mexican citizens who’ve broken the law have been deported rather than being imprisoned in the US. 

Perhaps not as surprising, 93% of people who are serving prison time are men and only 7% are women. That doesn’t mean that women don’t commit as many serious crimes as men, but it does mean that they are less likely to be incarcerated in a US prison for those crimes.

One thing that is surprising, though, is that nearly half of the people in prison started their sentences when they were between 31 and 41 years old. Also, nearly 46% of the people in prison are there for drug-related convictions. Despite the hugely publicized gun-related issues in the US, only about 3% of inmates are there for homicide, assault, and kidnapping charges, combined. About 6% of inmates are there due to immigration violations, double the number of murderers and so forth.

Of all inmates of US prisons, only 12% are kept in high-security prisons, too. This is saying a lot. A little more than 54% of inmates are kept detained at either minimum security or low-security prisons.

As a nation, we often don’t think about the prison system and many people find the topic to be uncomfortable to think about. However, if thought isn’t given to the system, the chances of it getting better are between slim and none. It is hoped that the new prison reforms might change these facts a bit over the next decade or so. Only time will tell.


What do you think?


Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. We are in desperate need of prison reform. IMO, a lot of the minor crimes should be punished with community service rather than jail time. There is no reason why the public needs to pay the tab for their room and board.

    Imprisonment is fine for severe crimes but they system needs to be changed. Life in jail should not be easier than life on the outside. Those who are able should be forced to contribute to their upkeep. Prisoners should not have access to TV or Internet. No workout rooms. They should get all the exercise they need being productive. I don’t mind them getting access to books and I’d have no problem with offering classes to improve themselves.

    Prisons are for punishment, not rehabilitation. They fail miserably at the latter.

    I’m not saying that prisoners should be treated cruelly, only that they shouldn’t have better lives in jail than they would on the streets.

    • I believe that you nailed it. If it is easier inside than outside, it isn’t a deterrent for those on the outside who are thinking of committing crimes.

      I also agree with community service for minor crimes. One thing that many states are instituting, too, is a system whereby the prisoners are actually charged for room and board. That way, though the taxpayer might need to pick up the tab on the short term, eventually the prisoner would be expected to pay that money back. They can naturally do some things while they are incarcerated and what they would normally earn is applied to the amount that they are being charged, but either way, they have to pay it back.


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