You probably don’t think much of prison or prisoners. Can’t blame you. It’s not a happy thought. However, Fareed Zakaria recently wrote a column for TIME magazine called America – Incarceration Nation inspired by Rev Pat Robertson. It has compelling stats on what it is costing us to incarcerate at a number far, far greater than our European cousins. He writes:
“The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and Britain—with a rate among the highest—has 153. Even developing countries that are well-known for their crime problems have a third of U.S. numbers. Mexico has 208 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, and Brazil has 242. As Robertson pointed out on his TV show, The 700 Club, “We here in America make up 5% of the world’s population but we make up 25% of the [world’s] jailed prisoners.”
I urge you to click on this link and read his column completely. http://www.fareedzakaria.com/home/Articles/Entries/2012/3/25_Incarceration_Nation.html
It will give you lots to talk about at dinner.
- Why do we incarcerate so many more people per capita?
- What would happen if marijuana was legalized?
- Who has the highest crime rate?
- Why do we rank so low in education compared to other countries? “Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment to be released Tuesday show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.”
- What has education got to do with incarceration?
The cost of these numbers is high, not only in currency, but in human lives and ultimately in our society as a whole. The solution is not “Soft on Crime” or “Tough on Crime.” We should be seeking ways to be “Smart on Crime.” It begins with the conversation and an increased awareness of the issues. I’m not telling you what to think; I’m asking you to think about the issue, perhaps for the first time.
Our organization, Gina’s Team, has a tag line: “Education, not incarceration, is the cheapest form of crime prevention.” We bring educational programs behind the wires in Arizona to impact lives and help prepare them for release.
Perhaps you don’t know anyone behind the wires. You can still make a difference. If you have children or grandchildren, do all you can to encourage them to stay in school, improve their reading skills, set goals. This great gift that will also contribute to safer communities, save tax dollars, and make a positive difference. “Education, not incarceration.” That’s the key…inside and out.