For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison . Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world. According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system. The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky.
The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.
The report said one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in 9 .
50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
"For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn't been a clear and convincing return for public safety," said the Center on the State's Public Safety Performance Project director .
The United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.
"While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Eugene Debs