The growth of U.S. prison and jail populations over the last three decades (as shown in the following graph) raises a variety of questions about the nation’s ethics and the state of American democracy. As marked in the graph, the U.S. prison population has been increasing steadily since the launch of the war on drugs in the early 1970s, with the total prison population increasing by 800 percent in just 40 years. This country incarcerates more people than any other nation.
The Huffington Post reports:
No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the U.S. At 716 per 100,000 people, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies, the U.S. tops every other nation in the world.
U.S. mass incarceration suggests the need for large-scale criminal justice reform. The following graph underscores how the U.S. prison population began steadily increasing upon the launching of the war on drugs.
In the following video, “A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America,” Michael Jacobson, Director of the Vera Institute of Justice, discusses the impacts of four decades of drug policy on U.S. incarceration rates with Professor Ernest Drucker, Professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.