US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Some sobering stats on our nation's troubled prison system--and some potential solutions

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

If you have paid attention to media reports in recent years about America's prison system, you probably already know that it has plenty of problems: We have the largest incarceration numbers in the world, recidivism rates are high, prisons are overcrowded, and the costs of keeping so many people behind bars are a heavy burden on taxpayers.

For those who haven't kept close tabs, Boston University's criminal justice department has put together this handy infographic that breaks down the numbers, including a look at who is in prison, why they are there, and what it costs to keep them there (at the state level, corrections accounts for $53.3 billion in spending, for instance). Even if you already know the story, seeing the numbers is still a sobering experience.

But thankfully, the news isn't all bad: Behavioral treatment programs have been shown to have a significant impact on recidivism, greatly reducing the number of former offenders who are re-arrested and who return to prison. As we wrote about earlier this year, many Catholics are involved in the movement toward restorative justice as an alternative to the current system, with an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than retribution for crime. These types of efforts, if implemented on a large scale over a long enough period of time, could provide a solution to our massive incarceration overload.

If you're interested in reading more about prisons and how we can better serve those who find themselves behind bars, don't miss our upcoming January 2014 issue, which includes a feature on how Catholics are helping incarcerated mothers maintain strong bonds with their children. In the meantime, be sure to check out the information put together by Boston University:


Image: Flickr photo cc by gloomy50