The U.S. makes up 5 percent of the world’s population and they also make up 25 percent of the worlds prisoners. That percentage breaks down to around 2.2 million inmates in the U.S., for me the first thing that comes to mind when I see 2.2 million inmates is what does it cost to support them. According to a 2012 Vera Institute of Justice study, in the 40 states that participated in the study the cost to the taxpayer in these states equaled $39 billion. The annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,286 per inmate.

In my opinion if we are going to spend that much money on incarcerating a citizen then we should make the investment worth wild. The money that is spent on prisons is ineffective when it comes to actually rehabilitating the prisoners. The U.S. prison systems seems to be built around incarcerating the individual instead of trying to effectively rehabilitate the individual so he or she may become a more productive member of society after their release. Individuals arrested and put into the prison system became a part of the vicious cycle of incarceration, release and re-incarceration. This is known as recidivism.

Recidivism refers to the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend, which results in rearrests, reconviction or return to prison. The Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One (Study tracked 404,638 prisoners after their release from prison in 2005. The study is made up of 30 states that make up 76% of the U.S. population. In Regards to state prisons, the researchers found that about two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. More than a third (36.8%) of all prisoners who were arrested within 5 years of release were arrested within the first 6 months, while after the first year (56.7%) were arrested by the end of the first year.

When I see these numbers it becomes painfully obvious that the U.S. prison system makes little to no attempt of preparing prisoners for life after prison. Then again, when you have private corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) running prison systems, why would they? More prisoners in their prisons mean more money for them. By making the prison system a business for these corporations, prisoners simply become dollar signs on a piece of paper and more prisoners equal more dollar signs. Yes, these private prisons might take some of the burden off of federal and state governments, but at what cost? Most of these private prisons have contracts that have an occupancy guarantee provision that require the state to keep the prison at 90% occupancy. Provisions like these can end up costing federal and state governments more money in the long run, these clauses can force corrections departments to pay thousands, sometimes millions, for unused beds. This is known as a “low-crime tax” that penalizes taxpayers when they achieve what should be a desired goal of lower incarceration rates. It’s ironic that the American tax payers can be penalized by private corporations for achieving ideal living conditions within their own society by lowering the criminal rate.

Furthermore the thing that irritates me the most about the prison system is the fact that these private prisons spend large amounts of money lobbying federal and state lawmakers to advance policies that protect their interest and keep pro-privatization lawmakers in office. In my opinion they are literally buying representatives in the government that only represent their interest by passing harsh criminal laws. With private prison corporations influencing the American Prison System from behind the scenes we can continue to expect that America will remain number one for the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens.

I hope you do your due diligence and conduct some research yourself to get an in-depth look into the American Prison System prison. Check out the links provided below, these are the websites I used and referenced for information and statistics. Please feel free to leave comments I would love to hear from y’all and will be happy to reply.

This is a study that breaks down the cost of prisons on American Taxpayers. .pdf

Although I did not use any information from this study I still found it to be an interesting and useful resource when breaking down individual state budgets for prisons.
This website went into detail regarding the incarceration rate and the recidivism.

This website refers to the private prison system of America, occupancy provisions and many other important issues regarding private prisons.

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