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The Incarceration Atlas.
July 25, 2001 12:53 AM   Subscribe

The Incarceration Atlas. Everyone's probably familiar with the usual stat that America has the world's highest rate of incarceration, but there are some other pretty interesting numbers here too, touching on some Metafilter favorites - race, education and drugs. (more inside...)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken (12 comments total)

 
Some examples :

Ranking of the U.S. in world's highest incarceration rates: 1


Percentage of U.S. prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses in 1980: 8
Percentage of U.S. prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses in 1998: 23


U.S. incarceration rates of Caucasians per 100,000 residents: 235
U.S. incarceration rates of African-Americans per 100,000 residents: 1815


Minnesota's ranking among U.S. highest incarceration rates: 51
Minnesota's ranking among U.S. highest education spending per capita: 1


District of Columbia's ranking among U.S. highest incarceration rates: 1
District of Columbia's ranking among U.S. highest education spending per capita: 51


Percent change from 1980 to 2000 in U.S.'s per capita spending on schools: + 32
Percent change from 1980 to 2000 in U.S.'s per capita spending on prisons: + 189
Percent change from 1980 to 2000 in Texas' per capita spending on prisons: + 401


link via alternet
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:55 AM on July 25, 2001


I heard a galvanizing version of "Racial and Ethnic Breakdown" at a traveling carnival once. Banjo and fiddle played separate melodies, and there was almost no harmony. Everyone danced a different dance.

From the statistics listed, Stavros, where would you and your hen want to hatch chicks, assuming it had to be one of the 50+1?
posted by pracowity at 1:23 AM on July 25, 2001


Well, praise be to the great factory farmer in the sky, but I'm not faced with the choice, having been raised in a coop other than the one in question.

Not ever having lived in America, I just dunno, pracowity. Bearing in mind my un-chickenlike propensity for large waves of warm water, if it had to be one of the 50+1, I'd lean towards Hawaii if forced to make the choice, based only on a liking for islands.

From the stats quoted above only, though, it's impossible to tell what the best choice of nesting site might be. Are Minnesota cops just total crap? Are most of the criminals in prison in D.C. actually politicians that have been caught with their filthy hands in the till? Is the differential in education spending due mostly to population differences? No idea, really. I didn't mean to offer the sample numbers above as the end of the matter, but as a teaser to the richer fabric of figures at the site linked.

Statistics can be used to obfuscate as much as clarify, I know, which may be the thrust behind your question... A clearer view of the greater story behind the numbers can be gleaned from MotherJones study, I think, if anyone cares to.

I'm just curious about what MeFi'ers American and otherwise have to say about it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:04 AM on July 25, 2001


At one time I heard a quote from some great person that "every time you open a school you close a prison."
This study would seem to bear that out.

'Course many times it is difficult to distinguish a school from a prison when driving past. Plain, nondescript, few windows, surrounded by security fence etc. I assume that is because each use the lowest possible cost for construction and all. Maybe even because of the high priority placed on "leaving no child behind" or "is our children learning."
posted by nofundy at 5:47 AM on July 25, 2001


Conceding the point about education and drugs, can we not also say that we are enjoying several years of declining crime rates due at least in part to the increase in prisons and prisoners? That crackdowns on crime and criminals have made the rest of us quite a bit safer, especially with regard to violent crimes?
posted by UncleFes at 6:58 AM on July 25, 2001


Now just think of what would happen if we could get rid of guns. (sorry... troll)
posted by jnthnjng at 7:19 AM on July 25, 2001


> can we not also say that we are enjoying several years
> of declining crime rates due at least in part to the
> increase in prisons and prisoners?

That's not something with which everyone agrees. One theory:

Sending fairly harmless dopers away to federal penitentiaries for marijuana sales does not take bad guys off the streets, but instead turns wimpy slackers into prison-nasty bad guys who, when their sentences expire, are on the streets and in your homes. They're still dopers and dealers, but after imprisonment they're also ready to kill bad customers. If you hadn't imprisoned them, screwed them up, and released them, the crime rate would now have been lower.
posted by pracowity at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2001


Around the world
Nations with highest incarceration rates per 100,000 residents (includes all individuals held in prisons and local jails)
1. USA 702
2. Russia 635
3. Cayman Islands 600


The Cayman Islands?
posted by Skot at 7:43 AM on July 25, 2001


Lots of drugs, smuggling and financial crime in the Caymans. Those secret Swiss-style banking rules made it a haven for a nasty element.

Are most of the criminals in prison in D.C. actually politicians that have been caught with their filthy hands in the till? Is the differential in education spending due mostly to population differences?

The differential in education spending in the District is, I would imagine, largely due to the same source of all that ails the District -- they are beholden to Congress to get anything, and Congress could give a good damn. Without direct, local governmental control over the money flow, DC will always be a shining example of how not to run a city, including the unfortunate consequence of an undereducated, overcriminalise citizenry who have been left optionless and essentially disenfranchised.

No taxation without representation - statehood or annexation for the District of Columbia, now!

Sorry, didn't mean to get all sloganeering and political. Oh foo, yeah I did.
posted by Dreama at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2001


can we not also say that we are enjoying several years of declining crime rates due at least in part to the increase in prisons and prisoners?

As pracowcity already pointed out, there are lots of conflicting ideas about why the crime rate has declined in recent years. No one is really sure what factors are contributing to the recent downturn. While I think that our high rate of incarceration probably has something to do with it, another very compelling theory is based simply on demographics. The most likely group of people to commit crimes are males in their teen and early twenties. This demographic group has been in decline in recent years as well. Under this model the crime rate (as a function of the demographic group) has not declined significantly even as the crime rate (as a function of the population overall) has gone down.
posted by edlark at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2001


One things these statistics show is that there is a greater disparity in incarceration between asians and whites in many states then there is between whites and blacks.

In other words, if the (implied) point that the system somehow discriminates against blacks is to be believed, then it must also be believed that the system discriminates against whites as much or more, in favor of asians.

If one doesn't believe that, then, in fact, one cannot believe on the basis of the statistics that the criminal justice system is at all biased, and simply reflects broader social factors which contribute to a propensity to offend.
posted by MattD at 10:46 AM on July 25, 2001


If one doesn't believe that, then, in fact, one cannot believe on the basis of the statistics that the criminal justice system is at all biased, and simply reflects broader social factors which contribute to a propensity to offend.

There is a large variety of evidence to suggest that blacks face conscious discrimination on the part of the penal system, such as detailed explanations of how profiling has been routinized.

I appreciate your point, an important point to grasp with interesting implications (is there an unconscious "reverse profiling" which statistically favors Asians?) - but doubting the existence of widespread discrimination against Blacks in the penal system is intellectually untenable.

If Asians were still perceived by middle America with the same "bogeyman" fear that Blacks are, the penal system would exploit that fear of its own natural volition and for its own popularity, by discriminating against Asians, as at one time it surely did.

And if the discrimination in the justice system against whites, in favor of Asians you point to can be proven to exist - wouldn't surprise anyone, it has been demonstrated clearly in primary and secondary schools which assume Asians are all super intelligent and never reprobate - no-one would much care, because A) this discrimination hasn't been systematized as it has against blacks, B) this discrimination is not part of a larger social problem which hurts the discriminated-against group on every conceivable social index, and C) it doesn't offend our sensibilities (fed by post colonial guilt) nearly as much to think of helping a minority to the detriment of the white majority.
posted by mitchel at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2001


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