Until the 1970s, the incarceration rate in United States while higher than other western nations, was within a reasonable band of their rates, but beginning in 1972, as reported by nap.edu 161 American residents were incarcerated per 100,000 population, and by 2007 it had “more than quintupled to a peak of 767 per 100,000.” Wikipedia.com indicates that in 2016 the incarceration rate in America was still at very elevated levels as in “655 per 100,000”, whereas countries such as Germany and Italy were both under 100 per 100,000 in 2016.
As many people are quite aware, the United States leads the world in incarceration rates and its percentage of residents incarcerated is not only a very high percentage but the sheer numbers of those incarcerated are absolutely astonishing in number, with 2.2 million people that are currently incarcerated in America, and with nearly 5 million more that are either on probation or parole.
While there are all sorts of theories, reasons, and studies as to why there are so many that are incarcerated in America for so long, the bottom line is that rather than seeing America and its residents as being some serious outliers in the sense of criminality; the real reason why so many are incarcerated in America, primarily comes from a runaway justice department in a significant amount of our cities and counties, of which, that justice department, along with the infrastructure of those courts, those jails, those prisons, their law enforcement personnel, their prison industry, as well as all others that do service for that justice department, directly or indirectly, essentially manufacture criminals.
In point of fact, when there are so many criminal laws upon the books that cover ever conceivable unlawful contingency, of real merit or not, and when 94% to 97% of State and federal crimes are actually plea bargained and hence do not afford the accused of a trial by their peers, than the justice department as a whole has carte blanche along with an uninterrupted green light to arrest whomever that they choose to arrest, under whatever dubious reasons or laws that are on the books, so as to get those so accused to plea bargain to something that will force their incarceration or cooperation.
Of course, it goes without saying, that the people that are most susceptible to being arrested and doing time are going to be those that are least able to fight the system; which are going to be the poor, the ignorant, the jobless, the weak, and the forsaken. Thus this means that in a country of such a great disparity in income, as well as in education, as well as in opportunity, and has historically oppressed those of the wrong color, as well as those of the wrong religion, and other assorted undesired people, it therefore follows that focusing on all those without a voice will enable the incarceration business to boom through any and all economic cycles.
The real reason why the incarceration business skyrocketed over the last forty-odd years is because those in power, wanted it to skyrocket, and by selecting and concentrating on all those that have little power and little of substance, they have succeeded in profiting upon the least of those amongst us, rather than addressing the systemic problems that create the seeds of criminal activities which are specifically enforced against those that have nothing to begin with.