Alarming Stats: 1 in 100 Americans behind Bars

Post by Maureen Fischer,  MaureenInk Communications,  Twitter: @ MaureenFischer,  www.MaureenInk.com

Note:  Social Media Consultant Maureen Fischer contributed hundreds of hours of her time to Amicus in launching this blog and integrating it with our other social media.  Thanks Maureen! You’ve made “Inside Change” something we can all be proud of. You’re always an Amicus in our eyes!

Statistics illustrate  why Amicus and our partners like 180 Degrees, The Council on Crime and Justice, and Emerge Community Development work at 100 percent capacity to deal with burgeoning client loads. The reason centers around the growing numbers of  Americans incarcerated.   Research by the Pew Center for the States–1 in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008–revealed an alarming statistic that continues to prevail today:

One in 100 of us are in prison.

The study provides a snapshot of rapid prison growth and rising costs during the past two decades. It compares the U.S. inmate population with that of the largest European inmate populations–America ranks first.

  • Between 1997 and 2007, incarceration costs escalated 315 percent.
  • Five states spend more on incarceration than higher education

One in 31 Americans are either in prison or under supervision. The number of African-American males behind bars proves even more shocking: one in ten young black men between 20 and 34 are locked away in correctional facilities.

Minnesota’s incarceration statistics are equally worrisome.

  • According to the most recent numbers available from the National Institute of Corrections, Minnesota correctional facilities house 9,986 inmates in 10 facilities, with a DOC staff of 3,251.
  • There are 127,627 probationers and 5,081 on supervised release.  That’s a total of 142,694 Minnesotans either in prison or under supervision.

Last year  Amicus One to One volunteers spent thousands of hours visiting inmates at Moose Lake, Stillwater and Shakopee correctional facilities.  Our job search staff helped hundreds search for jobs and housing in order to remain out of prison.  We welcome the chance to carry through on our mission of partnering with inmates, ex-offenders and juveniles to help build better lives and stronger communities. Still, the need for services outpaces our ability to provide them.  This despite the welcome addition of three AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers and four new Radius employees in August, and our first national grant–a Second Chance Act Mentoring Grant of $300,000–awarded just days ago.

One in 100: it’s far too many and somehow it has to stop.  In the meantime, we continue helping ex-offenders search for jobs and housing, counseling teens involved with drugs or gangs, and visiting inmates in need of cheer and attention–all with the end goal of greater public safety for all.