Report: US targets poor and working class with mass imprisonment [World Socialist Website]

By Eric London
26 May 2014

A new report from the National Research Council titled “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States” details the devastating impact of the American prison system on increasingly wide sections of society.

The report depicts a society in which nearly one percent of the adult population is locked up in prison or jail, and where the immediate and residual effects of mass incarceration mean that the most exploited sections of the population face a relentless cycle of hunger, homelessness, disease, poverty and violence.

“In communities of concentrated disadvantage — characterized by high rates of poverty, violent crime, mental illness and drug addiction — the United States embarked on a massive and unique intensification of criminal punishment” over the past fifty years, the study explained. “Although many questions remain unanswered, the greatest significance of the era of high incarceration rates may lie in that simple descriptive fact.”

The facts enumerated in the study are a damning indictment of the American ruling class, which has no progressive role to play in society. Today, the American elite relies on an elaborate network of [prisons] to keep large sections of the population constantly moving through the turnstiles of the criminal system. The impact on the population at large is devastating.

According to the report, 2.1 million children—three percent of the total—had a father in prison in 2000. The period of 1991 to 2007 saw a 77 percent increase in the number of children with a father in prison. Over the same period, there was a 131 percent increase in the number of children with a mother in prison.

For the first time in US history, male high school dropouts are almost more likely to go to prison than not. One third of white male high school dropouts born in the late 1970s have served time by their mid-30s. The figure rises to two thirds for black men of the same background.

As the report notes, “the pervasiveness of imprisonment among men with very little schooling is historically unprecedented, emerging only in the past two decades.”

The American prison system is unmatched globally in terms of size. US prisons now hold 2.2 million adults, and more than five million Americans are also on parole or probation, putting the number of people under some form of state punishment at over seven million.

The US imprisons more people than any other country in the world, including countries like China and India with much larger populations. Roughly a quarter of all prisoners worldwide are kept in American prisons, this despite the fact that the US accounts for only five percent of the world’s population…

Excerpted; full article link:


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