AP English Language & Composition
14 January 2015
On December 7th of 1989, a man named Carlos DeLuna, was wrongfully executed for a murder he did not commit (Cohen). The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Carlos never had the opportunity to prove his innocence before being executed by lethal injection. Prior to being executed, Carlos had spent some time in prison, which had cost time and money. He was another person to add to the mass of people under correctional supervision at the time. Mass incarceration is a significant issue in the U.S. because "the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world" (Schoenfeld) and inmates cost money to maintain. So many people ended up in prison because people are being jailed for profit and are being charged with ridiculous sentences (Whitehead). Prison populations can be reduced with leniency on nonviolent crimes and "eliminate mandatory minimum sentences" (Gupta). Are these the reasons why America, with only 5% of the world's population, has about 25% of the world's prison population? For starters, what is mass incarceration? Mass incarceration is the imprisonment of a large amount of people. This is most significant in the country we live in because, as said before, "the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world" (Schoenfeld). The United States' imprisonment rate is almost 50% higher than Russia's and incarcerates 5 times
as much as Canada, which has a population of 35.1 million people. Also, most of the people imprisoned are people of color, minorities. “African Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person and nonwhite Latinos are almost three times more likely to be incarcerated, according to the Pew Center on the States” (Schoenfeld). Most of these inmates are illiterate or don’t have an education past college. Another reason why mass incarceration is as significant as it is, is because it cost a large amount of money to maintain an inmate. Specifically in California, it cost $47,000 a year on average, to incarcerate an inmate (California Criminal Justice). “To put this in perspective, the state of California spends 2.5 times more money housing and feeding inmates than it does educating students. California is not alone: ‘five states spend more on corrections than higher education’, a 2008 Pew Center study revealed” (Schoenfeld). All the tax money we use to pay for housing inmates
be spent on higher education and it
be spent on better research,
but this process is just a cycle. With lower education comes a great struggle in life, with a result of most people of color being sent to jail, and then continuously being released from jail just to be put back in.
So many people ended up in prison because they’re being incarcerated for profit. “CCA has floated a proposal to prison officials in 48 states offering to buy and manage public prisons at a substantial cost savings to the states. In exchange, and here's the kicker, the prisons would have to contain
at least 1,000 beds
and states would have agree to maintain a
90 percent occupancy
in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years” (Whitehead). This means that the prison officials have to continue to put people in prison to keep it at a 90% occupancy rate. In the
article, Whitehead describes a scam that had juveniles sent to private prisons for petty crimes, he writes:
Doubtless, a system already riddled by corruption will inevitably become more corrupt, as well. For example, consider the "kids for cash" scandal which rocked Luzerne County, ...
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