Shortly after finding Paul Toth’s bit about why he’s leaving the states (economic inequality, anti-intellectualism, etc…) I ran across the announcement of this lovely first: not to be outdone in anything (except education, health care, productivity…) the U.S. is Number 1 at imprisoning people, with 1% of the population now in jail! Now there’s a reason to leave; any country that obsessed with having people behind bars has something seriously wrong with it.

[A Pew Center study] says that nationwide there are now 1.6 million people in prisons, translating into one in every 99.1 adults. It has never been so high and can be traced back to a surge of prison sentences handed down through the 1990s, although the rate has continued to trend upward since 2000. The findings also underline America’s position as the most prison-heavy country in the world, far outstripping China, which has the second highest rate of imprisonment as well as Russia, ranked third.

We’re by no means the only country experiencing this trend, I caught a little item on Catalunya here in Spain, where they’re going to build “express” prisons to cope with over-crowding. Apparently they’d have to build a new prison in the region every year to deal with the rise in inmates, so they’re looking into pre-fab prisons. Suburbs and prisons made of the same materials, somehow fitting.

On another incarceration-related note, kv sent me this link a while back about how, at least in California, you can’t blame immigrants – they’re committing less crime than native born Americans.

People born outside the United States make up about 35 percent of California’s adult population but account for about 17 percent of the adult prison population the report by the Public Policy Institute of California showed. According to the report’s authors the findings suggest that long-standing fears of immigration as a threat to public safety are unjustified. The report also noted that U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate more than 2 1/2 times greater than that of foreign-born men.

So there you have it, despite our obsession with incarceration and the disproportionate sentencing of minorities immigrants are still not overcrowding our prisons, we are.