1. What the term means
- The phrase “mass imprisonment” was coined by sociologist David Garland in 2000 to describe the massive expansion of imprisonment in the US between 1975 and the late 1990s. This new regime of punishment differed in two remarkable ways: 1) the sheer scale and magnitude of the increased use of imprisonment in a departure from historic norms and 2) the systematic imprisonment of whole groups of the population without social scientific evidence that punishment has a strong relationship with crime control.
2. Scale: There are more than 2.4 million people behind bars in America
- Approximately one out of every four prisoners on the entire planet are in U.S. prisons, but the United States only accounts for about five percent of the total global population. Since 1980, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons has quadrupled. Incredibly, 41 percent of all young people in America have been arrested by the time they turn 23. 12 million people cycle through prison in a single year. 7 to 8 million people are under some form of criminal justice supervision (including probation and parole).
- Tennessee incarceration rates have gone from just over 100 people incarcerated per 100,000 people in the 1970s to over 400 in 2010.
3. Systematic Imprisonment of groups: Mass incarceration disproportionately impacts people of color
- African-Americans in the 1990s, who only comprised 13% of regular drug users, made up for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes. The primary drug user was and remains white.
- The incarceration rate for African-American men is more than 6 times higher than it is for white men.
- In Tennessee, African-Americans represent 17 percent of the population but are 44 percent of the incarcerated population.
- An astounding 2 percent of African-American men from age 20 to age 34 with less than a high school education were incarcerated in 2008. 1 out of 3 black men face incarceration across their lifetime.
- There are more African Americans under correctional control today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War
- Native Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are similarly disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.