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United States

"Is America really a "prison state"?"



by 113 Jurors

The United States of America (USA or U.S.A.), commonly referred to as the United States (US or U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.71 million square miles (9.62 million km2) and with around 318 million people, the United States is the world's third or fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century. This involved displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states. The American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country. By the end of the 19th century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy was the world's largest. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country with nuclear weapons, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.

The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy, with an estimated GDP in 2013 of $16.8 trillion—23% of global nominal GDP and 19% at purchasing-power parity. The economy is fueled by an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity, with per capita GDP being the world's sixth-highest in 2010. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, it continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers. The U.S. has the highest mean and fourth highest median household income in the OECD as well as the highest gross average wage, though it has the fourth most unequal income distribution, with roughly 15% of the population living in poverty as defined by the U.S. Census. The country accounts for 36.6% of global military spending, being the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.

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img Susan Boyle posted a review

In a post yesterday, the ALCU shared a common narrative: "The United States has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the prison population. We need to change this."

However, what is often left out is why exactly this is a bad thing. It seems that supporters of this narrative never ask some obvious questions:

- Is it possible that the our prison population is evidence that our criminal justice system works? That we are better at hunting down, capturing, and convicting criminals than other countries?

- Is it possible that other countries don't have enough prisoners?

- Why, when countries like Brazil have an ongoing homicide epidemic [1], is our prison population a problem? After all, by the logic of this narrative, Brazil has a superior criminal justice system because a lower percentage of their population is in prison [2].

These are questions that need to be answered if we are to be convinced that America really does have a prison problem.

Indeed, having 2.2 million prisoners does seem like a large number [3]. However, it's worth noting that total only represents about 0.7% of the entire population. Moreover, that number seems even smaller when you consider that according to FBI crime statistics, 1.2 million violent crimes are committed in the U.S. each year, along with 8 million property felonies [4]. That's over 9 million NEW imprisonable offenses committed every year compared to a total of 2.2 million prisoners. Even more striking, 10 million people are arrested in the U.S every year, compared to a prison population of 2.2 million [5].

Additionally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics counts 3.8 million offenders that are currently serving on probation [6]. When adding that to the population of offenders on parole, there are twice as many convicted felons that are not in prison than there are in prison [7].

The data clearly shows that America's prison population could be even larger. Yet, this fact is never brought up in the prison state narrative. Instead, proponents of this talking point often bring up the amount of Americans in prison for drug related offenses or the proliferation of private prisons to back up their concern.

Of course, these points are also in need of further examination. The fact that the majority of people in prison are there for drug related offenses is only true if you are talking about federal prisons. But federal prisoners only make up 10.8% of the entire prison population [8]. At the state and local level, convicted drug offenders only make up 18.7% of the prison population. In fact, there are three times as many people in state and local prison for violent crimes as there are for drug related crimes [8]. When combining all prisons, only 21% of America's total prison population is there for drug related crimes.

Moreover, the narrative that many people are in prison due to simple possession of less harmful drugs like marijuana is also exaggerated. Only 0.9% of the country's prison population is there for marijuana related offenses. Of those, only about 200 are there for simple possession alone [9].

Similarly, the numbers don't add up for the widespread concern about private prisons. Only about 8% of all prisoners are currently housed in private prisons [10]. Although to some that may seem like a lot, consider that private prisons are actually on the decline [11], and private prisons only represent 6.7% of all currently operational prisons [12].

Of course, the point of any criminal justice system is to not only punish offenders, but to deter crime. While I agree with the claim the economic prosperity is the best way to lower crime rates, that doesn't fully explain the drastic reduction in crime in the United States. Despite the fact that in the early 1990's, the United States had been in a period of sustained economic growth and prosperity, we also undeniably saw a major spike in crime. Although former President Clinton's tough on crime legislation is often derided by supporters of the prison state narrative, there is ample evidence that it worked. The year the bill was signed, violent crime stood at 713.6 per 100,000 population. 22 years later, that number has nearly been cut in half to 372.6 per 100,000 population [13].

In addition to the decline in crime, U.S. prison population numbers have stabilized since the turn of the century. In fact, they have even been on a decline since 2010 [14], which directly contradicts the narrative that we have a growing problem. With tougher laws, crime rates have been in steep decline, and despite harsher sentences, so too has the prison population.

It is worth considering the the United States simply has a system that works. That instead of our prison population being too high, other countries have a prison population that is too low. Having a lot of prisoners is not evidence in and of itself that we face a grave problem.

None of this is to say that our criminal justice system could not use some reform. Policies like mandatory federal minimum sentencing and certain drug laws are certainly worth considering doing away with or significantly revamping. Like anything else, our criminal justice system is not perfect and there is always room for improvement. However, when considering such reform, it is important to see the issue in context. It's entirely possible that we have a more efficient criminal justice system than anyone else. Any reform ideas should take the entire picture into consideration.

3 days ago

img Ian Da Silva posted a review

Government regulations that limit housing supply have had a huge negative impact on US economic development, according to a new study by scholars from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley.

In fact, these constraints lowered aggregate US growth by more than 50% from 1964 to 2009.

This is due to the fact that high productivity cities tend to restrict housing supply, keeping their residential populations lower than they otherwise would be and consequently making America less productive in aggregate.

A recent job market paper also found that 23% of the increase in wage inequality from 1980 to 2007 could be accounted for by increasing housing supply regulations.

High-skilled workers, being less sensitive to housing costs, sort into productive places, which leads to larger wage inequality.


6 days ago

img Yuri Michael posted a review

A former uniformed Secret Service officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for sending sexually explicit photos of himself to underage girls — while he was on duty at the White House.

Lee Robert Moore, 38, of Church Hill, Maryland, pleaded guilty in March to enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity and attempting to transfer obscene materials to a minor. The Secret Service fired him after his arrest in November 2015.

At the time of his arrest, Moore was assigned to protect the White House complex, and prosecutors said he sent some of the materials while on guard duty at the White House.

6 days ago

img Mark Henry posted a review

Meanwhile, a statue of Vladimir Lenin isn't controversial at all, but statues of Americans need to come down all over the south..

The people who desire to rule over us are smart to remove these statues in the South. They will likely eventually work their way up to the founding-fathers with probably the same exact reasoning (*MUH SLAVERY)

Our ruckus history will be removed in an attempt to turn Americans into an obedient citizenry.,_Seattle

1 week ago

img Mark Henry posted a review

Right and left-wing populists have recently appealed to growing worries that free trade has harmed the employment prospects for many Americans.

When a manufacturing plant closes down due to import competition or offshoring, people understandably get angry.

Entire manufacturing communities that once prospered, have become poverty ridden thanks to foreign competition.

These are the concentrated and visible costs of free trade, and by looking at these costs alone, it is very easy to see why many people think raising protectionist tariffs is a good idea.

However, it's extremely important to recognize that the benefits of free trade are more dispersed, less visible, and much larger than the costs.

These benefits come in the form of much lower prices for consumer and production goods, enhanced productivity, greater variety of products, higher product quality induced by competition, and so on.

The University of Chicago polled dozens of the United States' top economists on the topic of free trade. 85% of them agreed that the long-run runs gains from free trade, "are much larger than any effects on employment." [1]

In a 2016 poll, 0% of economists believed that raising tariffs on imported goods was a good idea. [2]

On a more empirical note, research published in the Review of Economics and Statistics found that substantially lowering tariffs lead to a 20% more income per person in the long-run in reforming countries. [3]

Lastly, a new study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the payoff to the US from international trade expansion was $2.1 trillion, compared to the costs to some workers, which was around $28-40 billion. [4]

More attention should be paid to helping those harmed by trade, but protectionism is not the path to prosperity. Like technology, free trade imposes some short-run costs, but these cost are small in comparison to the long-run benefits.


1 week ago

img Sohail Ahmed posted a review

UPDATED 1:40pm et - A U.S. commander on the ground in Syria ordered U.S. airstrikes on pro-Syrian regime forces that were in a demilitarized safe zone and endangering U.S. forces and/or civilians. The pro-Syrian forces refused to heed warnings to leave the "deconfliction zone" and ignored warning shots.

U.S. government officials say this does not represent a policy change, but this is only the second time the U.S. has struck Syrian forces, including a cruise missile strike earlier this year. This is a developing story...

1 week ago

img Yuri Michael posted a review

Muslim men are usually separated from women during religious services in mosques throughout the world.

But one mosque in northern California has opened up to let men and women pray side-by-side.

The religious center is called Qal’Bu Maryam, which means “Heart of Mary” in Arabic.

Rabi’a Keeble set up the new Qal’Bu Maryam mosque in Berkeley, California. She was a Christian until about 10 years ago, when she accepted Islam.

1 week ago

img Mark Henry posted a review

UPDATED 10:02am et - Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is recovering after collapsing during a 3-mile running race in Washington, D.C. CPR was performed on him, and he was rushed away by ambulance.

Tillis, 56, was seen on the ground being administered CPR by bystanders at about the two-mile mark of the race. He at first appeared unconscious but was revived and breathing when taken away by ambulance.

It appears dehydration may have been behind the collapse, as Tillis has tweeted a message from his hospital room saying that he's okay.

1 week ago

img Sid Poduval posted a review

The Fortune 100 consists of the 100 biggest companies (by revenue) in America... not the sort you'd expect to need government assistance. Yet these corporations lobby for and receive billions in government assistance, on top of the $ trillion+ they've been awarded in contracts.

CONTRACTS: $1.2 trillion in contracts were awarded to the 100 biggest companies in America from 2000 through 2012.

GRANTS: $2.8 billion in grants were awarded to the 100 biggest companies in America from 2000 through 2012. Only a small percentage of grant awards are audited for performance. Grants are not paid back.

LOANS: $8.5 billion in loans were awarded to the 100 biggest companies in America between 2000 and 2012. These Fortune 100 companies- the wealthiest in the world- are receiving low, taxpayer subsidized interest rates and guaranteed loans through the Small Business Association on their national distribution networks. In this way, taxpayers assume the risk of business default.

DIRECT PAYMENTS: $109 million in direct payments were given to the 100 biggest companies in America between 2000 and 2012. A Direct Payment is a “subsidy.” Fortune 100 companies get farm subsidies, subsidies on their investment in low-income housing, etc. that are classified as Direct Payments. Direct Payments are not paid back.

FARM SUBSIDIES: $0.6 million to the Farm subsidies were given to the 100 biggest companies in America from 2000-2012. The federal government provides a "safety net" with the intent to ensure a stable food supply despite variations in weather, market prices, and other agriculture issues.

INSURANCE PAYMENTS: $9.8 billion to the Fortune 100 between 2000 and 2012. Whether it’s the Import-Export Bank of US, or the Small Business Administration (SBA) issuing ‘Surety Bonds’, both entities assure businesses that contracts will be completed and capital preserved.

1 week ago

img Simi Rehman posted a review

The United States is close to completing a series of arms deals for Saudi Arabia totaling more than $100 billion, a senior White House official said on Friday, a week ahead of President Donald Trump's planned visit to Riyadh.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the arms package could end up surpassing more than $300 billion over a decade to help Saudi Arabia boost its defensive capabilities while still maintaining U.S. ally Israel's qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

"We are in the final stages of a series of deals," the official said. The package is being developed to coincide with Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia. Trump leaves for the kingdom on May 19, the first stop on his maiden international trip.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was pushing through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others already in the pipeline, ahead of Trump's visit.

The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Trump has vowed to stimulate the U.S. economy by boosting manufacturing jobs.

The package includes American arms and maintenance, ships, air missile defense and maritime security, the official said. "We'll see a very substantial commitment ... In many ways it is intended to build capabilities for the threats they face."

The official added: "It's good for the American economy but it will also be good in terms of building a capability that is appropriate for the challenges of the region. Israel would still maintain an edge."

While in Riyadh, the official said Trump would attend three major events: A series of meeting with Saudi officials, a separate session with leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and a lunch with Arab and Muslim leaders, 56 of whom have been invited, to discuss combating extremism and cracking down on illicit financing.

Trump will discuss how to counter the threat from Islamic State militants, the war in Yemen and threats of ballistic missiles and maritime shipping in the Red Sea, the official said.

1 week ago

Je$$e Radin We need someone else to attack North Korea. It's gonna happen and it needs to.

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United States

Is America really a "prison state"?
Book rating: 41.5 out of 100 with 113 ratings