Fun fact: The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, with a population of 30,000, has a single prisoner. One person locked up. Total.
Not fun fact: the U.S. has five percent of the world's population and a full quarter of the world's prisoners. We have more people locked up than any other country. Draconian China comes in second. This news comes from the International Herald Tribune, who reports that:
"Criminologists and legal experts here and abroad point to a tangle of factors to explain America's extraordinary incarceration rate: higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges-many of whom are elected, another American anomaly-yield to populist demands for tough justice."
This is a total mess, friends. We're not proud of any of those causes and we're not proud of the effect. And more inmates are probably bent out of shape than corrected by their experiences in our correctional facilities. Easing up on drug laws would help. Better safety nets would help. But let's also consider thinking about criminals as people we should help rather than hurt.