“Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate that is 19% higher than all other groups (Minton, 2002) and non-citizens represent 29% of all federal prisoners (Scalia & Litras, 2002). Women of color, once arrested, are disproportionately sent to prison while white women are more likely to be placed on probation (Greenfield & Snell, 1999). Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, often practiced through the discretionary power of police officers, prosecutors, judges, juries, parole boards and corrections authorities, has a devastating effect on women of color. Women of color are more likely than white women to be arrested and charged with more serious offenses, to be prosecuted, to be convicted and to serve time in prison (Allard, 2002; Chesney-Lind, 1997; Ditton & Wilson, 1999; Farnsworth & Teske, 1995; Greenfield & Snell, 1999; S. Miller, 2001).”
President Obama is making history, again. His visit to El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma on July 16 is part of his administration’s focus on criminal justice reform. On Monday, the President announced he would be commuting the sentences of 46 people convicted for nonviolent drug offenses. And on Wednesday, the White House released a fact sheet detailing the various efforts to make the United States’ criminal justice system fairer and more effective. It’s clear that Obama is taking a different approach to criminal justice reform than his predecessors.
1. The U.S. is home to the largest population of incarcerated people.
2. There are more correctional institutions than degree-granting institutions in the U.S.
3. Prison demographics highlight racial inequity. Black and Latino people account for roughly only 30% of the U.S. population, but make up the majority of the prison population — 58%.
4. The civil liberties of incarcerated individuals are threatened.
5. Taxpayers invest an inordinate amount of money in prisons. The average cost per inmate for prisons was $31,286 in 2012. The report also notes the total cost of prisons to taxpayers was $39 billion in that year.
6. Crime pays — literally. Two of the biggest private prison companies in the country made $3.3 billion in annual revenue in 2012.
7. Some private companies benefit from cheap prison labor. Whole Foods has reportedly paid incarcerated people in the Colorado prison system $1.50 per hour to farm tilapia
8. Abuse of undocumented people is a critical problem in U.S. federal detention centers.