World Prison Population

Some highlights (numbers are per 100 000 of population):
USA: 714
England & Wales: 142
China: 118*
Germany: 96
Estonia: 339
Russia: 532
Thailand: 264
India: 29

*only the convicted

Whoa, really? Jesus.

What a mess. Three strikes laws, war on drugs, etc. They all looked great on paper right up until the consequences set in.

This is THE argument in favor of legalization of lower risk drugs. The bill for paying for all these prisons is getting outrageous.

If you spend money on education, you save money on prisons.

Not news to me, but still a disgrace.

In my mind, politically, crime should not be an enforcement issue. However, it’s probably political suicide to try to do such a campaign.

I’m not really sure what you mean. Could you elaborate?

The political response to “lots of crime” should not be “more cops/prisons/longer sentences” (enforcement) but what would be presented by one’s political opponents as “blatant pandering to criminals”. It’s of course difficult to quantify the effects that lead to the US having 10 times as much crime as a country like Sweden, especially considering the varied demographics, but I could imagine raising the bar on what society accepts from youths and make more of an effort to resocialize kids who have committed crimes, less enforcement of drug use and possession laws, extensive social programs and various methods of giving everyone viable alternatives to crime at all stages in life (this could include raising minimum wages or similar, so as not to make people following the law feel like suckers for doing so, and cheap/free/legitimate education possibilities for everyone).

Ah, ok. Yeah, that’d be nice.

I’m really puzzle why there’s such a disparity, particularly between the U.S. and a relatively similar (culturally) country like England.

Yes, we have a more heterogeneous society, but England isn’t all Prince Charles look-alikes either.

Yes, we enforce drug dealing charges pretty harshly, but for the most part, mere possession doesn’t typically get much more than a slap on the wrist. AFAIK, this is not dramatically different than England.

I’d be half inclined to say it’s a cultural issue - that crime and the criminal lifestyle is glamourized and made attractive to young males here. But there’s a lot of cultural cross-talk between the U.S. and England, so I’m not sure how much I buy into that, either.

Nope, it’s pretty much all the war on drugs coupled with our ever-more-extreme sentencing rules.

I don’t think this is necessarily true - if it’s your first offense, and you can afford a lawyer, then yes, you’ll probably get a slap on the wrist. But repeat offenders get much harsher penalties, sometimes due to craziness like the three strikes laws, and of course folks who can’t afford a lawyer are boned.

I’d be half inclined to say it’s a cultural issue - that crime and the criminal lifestyle is glamourized and made attractive to young males here. But there’s a lot of cultural cross-talk between the U.S. and England, so I’m not sure how much I buy into that, either.

I’m sure culture is a part of it, but I don’t think it presents an insurmountable obstacle to reform. The gangster image in pop culture is still relatively new. I think that can be dealt with through a plan like Anders outlined - better education leading to better opportunities, etc.

Its even more interesting that DA’s want it to be higher and that the parole and prison administrators have to pick and choose whats the greater crime and who gets early parole because most prisons are currently at capacity.

Another thing, which I don’t know is unique for the US or not: the privatization of prisons mean that there are people and companies that have a vested interest in a high prison population. I don’t know if that can be shown as having any effect on the length of sentences and the like, but it’s not impossible. Financial incentives have been shown to be quite powerful, by and large.

But there’s a lot of cultural cross-talk between the U.S. and England, so I’m not sure how much I buy into that, either.

Building new prisons costs a shitload of money that, Daily Mail aside, nobody particularly seems to want to spend on them. I understand that UK prisons are pretty much at full capacity so we can’t chuck more people away than we do already even if we wanted to (and lots of people seem to want to).

Also sentences for similar crimes in the UK, whilst harsh by EU standards generally incur a lot less porridge than you’d get in the US so I guess we also churn our re-offenders through the system that much more quickly than you guys.

While we are trying to follow your example as closely as possible, I don’t think we’ve quite drummed the fear of crime into people here as much as has been done in the US. Sure we’ve all seen Cops, but thats America and “Bobbies” or whatever they call the UK version just doesn’t have the same impact when the armed response unit lays seige to some pissed up guy with a water pistol. Where’s the crystal Meth and the Glock dammit? Maybe we need that shouty Sherrif dude to jazz it up a bit or sprinkle some guns around a town centre at midnight on a friday.

The facts (as opposed to the spin) in the article you linked to don’t really support that. The first line talks about drug offenders being 55% of federal inmates, but compare the absolute numbers of prisoners in the first and second lines, and if there numbers are correct, you’ll see that about 85-90% of prisoners are State prisoners, and of THAT population, only 21.4% are drug law violators. So, of the combined populations, it’s probably 25-28%. Still big, but that means almost 3/4 of inmates are in jail for reasons other than drug law violations.

Looking at this page, you’ll see the US has 4X the homicide rate of the UK
Rule of Law. While a portion of that is connected to the drug trade, I think crime rates overall are probably much higher in the U.S. than in Western Europe.

Note if you gun someone down because you’re both in drug dealing I think you get classified as “homicide”, not drugs. I’d hazard at least half, if not more, of the crime is drug related.

I thought the pattern was that the rate for most crimes was in the same ballpark, making homicide an outlier.

The great thing about putting drug addicts in prison is that when they get out they have a whole new tool set for funding their vice, along with an extended network of contacts for fencing it, and an altered value system to help them overcome any moral objections they may previously have had.

I would have tried to pull stats on other crimes, but homicide is the most uniformly reported stat. With only minor gray areas, pretty much everybody agrees that if someone gets killed by someone else, it’s a homicide.

Assault, theft, rape, etc, are all subject, to a greater degree than for homicide, to both the local law, the reporting of the crime by the victim, follow-through by the police, and accurate reporting to national/international agencies. (i.e., what constitutes a ‘rape’, what portion of the victims report it, and what happens from there out presumably vary by a much wider extent from country to country than is the case for homicide).