2.3 Million Americans Won’t be Singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
Date:  12-24-2012

By this time next year will that shameful number still stand?
America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Although the United has just five percent of the world’s population, it makes up 25 percent of the world’s prison population. CURE National reveals that the United States incarceration rate is 763 per 100,000 people. The world average is 150 per 100,000. For American males aged 18 – 64, CURE announced the incarceration rate is one in 87 for white males, and one in 12 for black males.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, recently wrote: “There are 2.4 million Americans are in prison, and another 5 million are on probation or parole, so 1 in every 31 adults is under criminal justice supervision; incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980, up from 41,000 to 500,000 in 2008; 60% of offenders are arrested for non-violent offensives--many driven by mental illness or drug addiction.”

There are collateral consequences related to locking up 2.4 million people. The most damning is the suffering of the children of an incarcerated parent.Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), based in Illinois, estimates that 1.7 to 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars on any given day, Christmas included. . Pew Charitable Trusts reports that one in every 28 children in the U.S. has an incarcerated parent.

Almost 95 percent of all inmates will be released one day, which means that approximately 700,000 prisoners might be home this Christmas. They are the fortunate ones.

Mandatory minimum sentences, the failed war on drugs, lack of alternative to incarceration programs, and the rush to lock up the mentally ill and substance abusers, rather than provide treatment, are part of the reason so many Americans will not be home this Christmas. Correcting these problems, along with funding reentry programs with proven track records for reducing recidivism, can help erase America’s nickname, “Incarceration Nation.” It is easy to say or write the number 2.4 million, but try to visualize the faces behind that staggering number. During this season of goodwill, recognizing that this number represents 2.4 human beings will hopefully prompt this country’s citizens and the legislators who represent them, to demand that by next year, and every year thereafter, that shameful number will be greatly diminished.