‘LONGER SENTENCES CREATE AN
AGING PRISON POPULATION’
At the end of 2012, several problems continued to plague American prisons, which Human Rights Watch and The PEW Charitable Trust have documented.
The poor, the elderly, children, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities are significantly impacted by U.S. prison policy, according to Human Rights Watch, 2013, Events of 2012 (www.hrw.org.)
Educational disparities also affect who is imprisoned in the U.S., according to Collateral Cost: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility, by the PEW Charitable Trusts (www.economicmobility.org and www.pewpublicsafety.org.)
“Those without a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma are far more likely to be locked up,” the PEW report finds. “While one in 57 white men ages 20 to 34 is incarcerated, the rate is one in eight for white men of the same age group who lack a high school diploma or GED.”
PEW finds black men “face enormously dim prospects when they fail to complete high school. More than 37 percent of black male dropouts between the ages of 20 and 34 are currently behind bars.”
The PEW report points out problems that children of incarcerated parent have, such as the “emotional and psychological trauma of separation” leading to “an increased risk of juvenile delinquency.”
Racial and ethnic minorities are overly represented in prison. African-Americans comprise 13 percent of the American population, but represent almost 29 percent of all arrests, according to the HRW report.
Bureau of Justice Statistics numbers show 3.1 percent of African-American men, 1.3 percent of Latino men, 0.5 percent of white men are in prison, reports HRW.
HRW finds the U.S. “incarcerates more people than any other country,” and violates practices contrary to human rights principles, “such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement.”
Longer sentences create an aging prison population, according to HRW. From 2007 through 2010, prisoners 65 and older grew 94 times faster than the total sentenced prisoner population during that same period. The HRW report finds “prisons are ill-equipped to handle this aging population.”
“Those without a high school diploma or a
General Equivalency Diploma are far
more likely to be locked up”
In 2011, more than 95,000 people under age 18 were held in adult prison or jails.
With about 2,600 juveniles serving life-without-parole sentences in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such mandatory sentences were unconstitutional. The HRW report found progress in abolishing life-without-parole for juveniles. HRW reported nearly every juvenile serving life-without-parole reported physical violence or sexual abuse by prisoners or corrections officers.
Non-citizens in the U.S. number about 25 million with nearly 11 million deemed in “the country without authorization,” HRW reports. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency deported a record 396,906 non-citizens in 2012. A record 37,000 non-citizens were charged with illegal entry—the most prosecuted federal crime.
HRW reports a downward trend in the use of capital punishment in the U.S. The report notes 33 states still have the death penalty and in 2012, there were 42 executions. Connecticut and the District of Columbia joined 16 other states eliminating the death penalty.