Once again, a hurricane dominates the happening in Louisiana. Seven years after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac causes prison inmate evacuations in Orleans, Terrebonne and St. Bernard parishes. Crowded correctional facilities as the Louisiana State Penitentiary get even more crowded. Pardon hearings and weekend visitations are cancelled. See the news from the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
The number of faces behind bars is increasing everywhere on the globe. Due to the collapsing penal system in the USA, the government is forced to enact laws that provide for the early release of elder, non-violent offenders. Yet, those released individuals remain on probation and, therefore, in the system. The higher the prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population), the more likely innocent inmates are confined. Louisiana alone is the prison “nation” number one.
When one compares the U.S. states with each other, and the USA with other countries (the poor and the rich), one realizes that the incarceration rate is not only the consequence of crime, politics and the lack of equalization of wealth, but it is also a matter of culture. The social focus in the USA is the South, once known for plantations and slavery. Nowadays, it is still the “Bible belt” that clings to the death penalty. Its “correctional” facilities on large grounds and the often brown and black people in prison clothes working the fields remind of old times.
Especially in rural areas where jobs are rare, each employee at local jails or the Department of Corrections, their families and friends enhance the lobby of the prison industry. They need convicted people to make a living and they cannot have an interest in a decrease of the prison population. Better basic education in the country and more alternative jobs would improve the chance for innocent prisoners to be heard and listened to by voters, and thus, by politicians as judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, legislators and governors.
The Innocent in Prison Project International (IIPPI) compiled information from the U.S. Census 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the International Centre for Prison Studies. Today, on July 10, 2011, IIPPI provides and illustrates the data in graphics. Read on at http://www.iippi.org/pdf/population_poverty_prisoners_usa2011_statistics.pdf .
The U.S. Census of 2010 published a map on January 6, 2014, which shows how many prisoners are housed in each of the counties (Louisiana: parishes) throughout the USA. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/business/prisoners/index.html?template=iframe
The World Incarceration Rate graphic of 2014 by the Prison Policy might interest you as well. It does not necessarily mean that other countries or nations are more “human” than the USA (several are definitely not!), but this graphic by the Prison Policy gives a feeling of how many people are incarcerated by (U.S.) state compared to all other countries in the world. Go to the site, click on the graphic to enlarge, and see it all! Go to www.prisonpolicy.org/global/
Here is another data point: the incarceration of women in the USA and its global context. “Only 5% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women.”
Update of February 2015:
Report by the VERA Institute of Justice: “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Missuse of Jails in America”
Report by the Brennan Center for Justice: “Louisiana Fact Sheet-What Caused The Crime Decline?”
Law Professor Bill Quigley at the Loyola University New Orleans names 40 reasons why minorities are mayorities in jails and prisons. (June 2, 2015)
How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)
This might interest you as well: Routine Character Assassination of Innocents