Monday, March 26, 2007

Prison population

Every prison does multiple counts of inmates every day. They get the counts right, they go into lockdown if the physical count doesn't match the expected count and stay in lockdown until the reconcile. A few times a day they do this.

But we can't get an accurate count of how many people are locked up in the US without waiting for months. The US DOJ provides an estimate of the number of people locked up on Dec 31, 2005 sometime in Nov 2006. Eleven months? Why? Why can't such numbers be gathered and added up within a few days?

I don't know. But my guess is that we have to wait for political approval of the numbers before the public is allowed to know them. Got to protect the public from too much information.

Here's some interesting numbers from the front page of that report --
From 1995-2005 the total number of persons under state supervision - probation, parole, jail, or prison, grew by 2.5%. Just the number of persons incarcerated in a prison grew 3%.

During a time when the rhetoric of criminal justice is that prisons are overcrowded and we need to seek alternatives to incarceration, it's the long term incarceration that grows in population rather than the alternatives.

Something is dysfunctional about this system. Deeply dysfunctional.

I'll try to look into this more deeply later.


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