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Just recently, the number of Americans behind reached the two million mark – the highest ever recorded – double the number of Americans in 1985. Back then, the ratio of prisoners to the general population was 140 out every 100,000. Now, 452 out of every 100,000 Americans are behind bars. If you’re an adult African-American, the chances are 1 out of 10 that you’re now in prison.

One explanation for why so many more Americans are imprisoned is because of the increasing number of sentencing laws, particularly for non-violent offenses involving drugs. California and some other states have also enacted “Three Strikes And You’re Out” , which, as their title suggests, automatically put third-time offenders in the slammer for a very long time.

A large of this rising prison population is relatively , and comes from poor families in poor neighborhoods. In other words, they’re the kind of people who, when outside prison, are often unemployed. According to by economists if every man who’s now in prison were outside prison and looking for work, the nation’s rate of male would be six-tenths of a percent higher than it is today. If the prison population were back to what it was in 1985, male unemployment outside the prison walls would be three-tenths of a higher than today.
Ironically, with so many people going to prison, and prison getting tighter, many prisons have begun putting their inmates to work for private or government – doing everything from telemarketing to making computer circuit boards and furniture, and earning from 25 cents to $7 an hour. More than 80,000 now hold such traditional jobs, and the number is growing rapidly.

In other words, without really to do so, the nation is in the process of creating a giant jobs program for people who are likely to be unemployed. The only problem is, in order to be for it, you’ve got to be in prison.
Cappelen Damm

Sist oppdatert: 30.07.2007

© Cappelen Damm AS