Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Prison and Sentencing Reform

Here are a couple questions I would like to see asked of all of the Presidential Candidates:

  • What is the explanation for the trends depicted by the following two graphs?
  • What is the relationship between the two graphs?
As presented in a previous post, the first graph shows the rapid growth in the share of income going to the top 10% since 1980.  The bottom graph portrays a remarkably similar slope over the same time period in the incarceration rate.

The bottom graph is taken from a very thorough wikipedia article on U.S. incarceration rates.  As the article points out, other nations have similar arrest rates, but prisoners in the U.S. serve much longer sentences for similar offenses, resulting in much greater numbers of people in custody.  Contributing factors cited in the article include the Three-Strikes laws passed by many states, a huge increase in people jailed for drug offenses, and the growth of the privatized prison industry which relies on a steady stream of new prisoners to stay in business.

Similar graphs can be drawn to show increases in health and educations costs, and probably for quite a few other  issues as well. 

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