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Too Many Prisoners?
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For those of you who don't know, the U.S. has about 2 million people in prison. Lots of people think this is too high. They compare the percentage to other countries, and note that we have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

What is that percentage, exactly?

Well, we have about 300 million people in this country, so if we have 2 million prisoners, that's about 0.67% of our population in prison.

It's logically flawed to criticize a particular percentage unless you're willing to counter with:

1) Why that number is high
2) What percentage is acceptable, and why

Just looking at the percentage, less than 1%, it doesn't seem abnormally high to me. But there are more important considerations.

For example, are the people being justly held? There are countries, for example, where there are large numbers of political prisoners. If we incarcerate twice as many people, but they are overwhelmingly just incarcerations, I don't see the problem.

Also, it is misleading to talk about the size of the prison population without having a decent handle on how many people in a given society are committing crimes. If there are, for the sake of argument, 6 million active criminals in the U.S., you could make the argument that our prison population is too small.

My point is that it is foolish to bandy around a given figure or percentage without putting it in some kind of context.

Is our prison population too high, then? I honestly don't know. But I wouldn't look at the statistics, and on the face of it say that it is, or that there has been some great failure of society.

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