The numbers are frightening. Right now, 2.3 million American are behind bars. That’s 1 in 137 people, and the majority are African-American and Latino.
It’s mind boggling that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country on earth. Is the country overrun with evildoers, or are we are doing something different than, say, Canada, which only has 40,500 people behind bars. Even Iran, considered an oppressive nation, has a prison population of 218,000.
The consensus at yesterday’s American Justice Summit at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City was we are doing something exceedingly counterproductive—and it’s not sustainable.
As John Wetzel, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said about incarceration and its aftermath, “Higher-risk offenders leave lower-risk. Lower-risk offenders leave higher-risk.” And what does that mean? Simply that we may be locking up too many non-violent wrongdoers and turning them into hardened criminals behind prison walls.