These 5 Shocking Charts Prove America Is Anything But ‘The Land Of The Free’
Let’s start with the basics, most people know that the United States is the world champion when it comes to mass incarceration. It has the highest percentage of its population behind bars in the world (well second to the Seychelles). So how did the US achieved top dog status? Here are a few more charts that might offer some insight.
Prisoner population rate per 100,000 population by country
Getting tough on crime
In the 1980s, state and federal legislators began to adopt “tough-on-crime” laws in response to rising crime rates, racial tensions, the emergence of crack cocaine, supposed threats to “traditional values” from counterculture movements, and fears of perceived increases in numbers of immigrants and youth offenders.
The Sentencing Project: ‘Incarceration’
It has since become the only response for most politicians to deal with a variety of social challenges.
Americans spend more on prison than on education
Graphic: Tal Yellin / CNNMoney
As pointed out by CNN money, the US spends more on its prisoners on than on students. Of course, prisoners are supported twenty four hours a day during incarceration and should have proper care during that time, but there are important connections between incarceration and education. Given how much states are willing to invest in prisoners shouldn’t they be willing to invest more in education to prevent young people from becoming prisoners? And for those who think that free university tuition is an impossibility reducing incarceration rates could be the answer as one as a year in state prison could cost more than a year in an ivy league school.
Race still matters—a lot
Most people would not be surprised that by the many graphs that show that African-Americans and Latino-Americans are incarcerated at higher rates than white Americans, but they may be surprised to discover that even significant economic advantage does not erase this effect. As reported in the Washington Post, a recent study from Duke University suggests that young people of color require a significant financial advantage just to be on par with their white counterparts.
— Max Ehrenfreund (@MaxEhrenfreund) March 24, 2016
The study basically suggests that a young African-American would have to come from a household with a minimum income of $69,000 to receive the same treatment in the criminal justice system as their poorest white counterpart. To tackle its incarceration problem, the US needs to make strides in tackling its race problem.
So you have been through the system, you’ve seen what has gone wrong and you want to elect leaders that can do something to change that. Unfortunately being a convicted felon makes it very unlikely that your voice will be heard.
An international comparison of 45 countries by ProCon.org shows that the US is out of step with other Western democracies when it comes to felon voter rights. While the rules vary from state to state and there may be ways to regain voter rights after release from prison the process can be complicated. The rules vary from state to state, but as highlighted by the Sentencing Project, an estimated 5.85 million people are affected nationally.
While many have been concerned about disenfranchisement by voter id laws felon disenfranchisement effects a significant population, mostly people of color and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is especially important for Democratic candidates who usually court these groups.
(felons can vote even while in prison)
(some felons may be banned from voting while in prison)
|Complete Ban on Voting While in Prison
(felons can vote upon release from prison)
(felons are banned from voting even after release from prison)
|21 countries||14 countries||10 countries||4 countries|
|Includes: Austria, Canada, Denmark, Ireland||Includes: France, Italy, Luxembourg||Includes: Brazil, Bulgaria, Estonia, New Zealand||United States, Chile, Belgium, Armenia|
Nikita Oliver-Lew data from ProCon.org
Being the toughest on crime isn’t working
You can’t get much tougher on crime than the death penalty. The United States still has capital punishment which puts it in a prestigious club, as this Amnesty International graphic illustrates, alongside China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
An here is a bonus chart: In spite of this extreme effort to take a hardline on crime that the death penalty does not actually deter murder. As this graph from the Death Penalty Information Centre shows murder rates are actually lower in non-death penalty states. Just being “tough on crime” is not an effective strategy to lower crime rates
Featured image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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A Canadian, currently located in Dublin, Nikita Oliver-Lew has an avid interest in all things political. She has an MSc in Comparative European Politics from Trinity College Dublin and hopes to return to her PhD studies on migration in Europe.