If sitting in a prison cell was a job, it would be one of the most common jobs in the United States. In 2012, there were some1,570,000 inmates in state and federal prisons in the U.S., according to data from the Justice Department.
By contrast, there were about 1,530,000 engineers in America last year, 815,000 construction workers, and 1 million high school teachers, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics.
This does not even include the amount of inmates incarcerated in jails, and is missing 3 states because they didn’t get their numbers in on time.
Something that is missing from this chart: This is the 3rd consecutive year that the prison population is decreasing. We are starting to see inmate populations level-off and decrease for the first time in decades.
Which states are in the extremes?
In 2012, states with the highest imprisonment rates included Louisiana (893 per 100,000 state residents), Mississippi (717 per 100,000 state residents), Alabama (650 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000 state residents), and Texas (601 per 100,000 state residents).
Maine had the lowest imprisonment rate among states (145 per 100,000 state residents), followed by Minnesota (184 per 100,000 state residents), and Rhode Island (190 per 100,000 state residents).
Who are the offenders? First and foremost, men. After that it gets complicated.
In 2011 (the most recent data available), the majority (53 percent) of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a violent offense, including robbery (14 percent), murder or nonnegligent manslaughter (12 percent), rape or sexual assault (12 percent) and aggravated or simple assault (10 percent). About 18 percent were serving time for property offenses, 17 percent for drug crimes and 11 percent for public order offenses, such as weapon violations, drunk driving, commercialized vice and court offenses.
White prisoners comprised 35 percent of the 2011 state prison population, while black prisoners were 38 percent and Hispanics were 21 percent. The percentage of Hispanic inmates sentenced for violent offenses (58 percent) during 2011 exceeded that of non-Hispanic black (56 percent) and non-Hispanic white (49 percent) inmates, while the number of black inmates imprisoned for violent crimes (284,631) surpassed that of white (228,782) or Hispanic (162,489) inmates.
Probably not intentional, but there is a lot of new strong empirical research coming out that indicates a school-to-prison pipeline.
“This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”
The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people.
While I think this is is pretty interesting, I disagree with the statement I bolded in the first paragraph. It doesn’t challenge standard methods so much as it adds another dimension that researchers should account for in their models. Some caveats: 1) causality is not accounted for in their model, so the researchers are not able to distinguish whether the pre-established environment causes personality differences between regions or if personality creates the environment; 2) There is a large selection issue. People move, and frequently. Are people self-selecting into these regions? None of those issues are accounted for in the research.
So how accurate is this map?
Undergraduate and graduate students alike often suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues (1, 2). Many students move to new cities or countries to start their degree and thus lack social connections and support, commonly feel overwhelmed by teaching and research loads, and often have persistent fears of failure and inadequacy.
In one study of over 3,000 international graduate students, 44% said they had mental health issues that “significantly affected their well-being or academic performance” (3). In addition, these can lead to graver health concerns, most dramatically suicide, which, among college students across 10 universities, was found to be highest among graduate students (4).
You should hear the stories that circle amongst the graduate students. Very little attention is given to the mental health of graduate students, which are a unique group of college students with different workloads, personal issues, and stressors than undergraduates.
Click through for the citations.
The public view of murder is especially distorted. They see it as very elaborate or interesting, and as one of the most frequent crimes. But let’s look at reality. Murders are less than 1% of the eight Part I crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) (FBI, 2008).
Sherlock Holmes would have no interest whatever in most of the 16,929 murders reported in the United States for 2007 (FBI, 2008). Only 10 involved poison. Only 134 were by strangulation. Only 31 murders were classified as involving rape. Just 11 involved prostitution and commercialized vice. Gangland killings were tallied at 77. The largest category of murder circumstances is “miscellaneous arguments.” Murder is more likely to result from arguments over money or property than from romantic triangles, even if the latter make a better story."
It would be pure illusion to believe that laws are made to be respected, or that the police and courts are intended to make them respected. Only in disembodied theory could we pretend that we have once and for all subscribed to the laws of the society to which we belong. It is common knowledge that laws are made by certain people for other people to keep.
But we can go further. Lawbreaking is not an accident, a more or less unavoidable imperfection. Rather, it is a positive element of the functioning of society. Its role is part of a general strategy. Every legislative arrangement sets up privileged and profitable areas where the law can be violated, others where it can be ignored, and others where infractions are sanctioned."
This map by Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service displays the population distribution of every person in America (as of the 2010 census) along racial and ethnic lines. The map features 308,745,538 dots, each smaller than a single pixel and each representing one person: Caucasians are blue, blacks are green, Hispanics are orange, Asians are red, and other races are brown.
The vast swaths of purple appear to show the racial diversity of some of America’s biggest cities. But if you zoom into the map and break these cities down at the neighborhood level, patterns of segregation become much clearer.
Original research conducted by Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. How segregated is your area? Click the link above to go to the interactive page in order to zoom in and out. Also, try finding your local prison in order to see the segregation in prisons.
A 2010 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that more than three times as many severely mentally ill persons in the U.S. are doing time in jails and prisons than receiving treatment in hospitals. Other studies indicate a near-tripling over the last 30 years of the percentage of U.S. inmates who suffer from severe mental illness, to a current level of at least 16%.
The primary mission of the Treatment Advocacy Center is to promote mental health laws and policies which, if fully implemented by state mental health systems, would minimize – if never fully eliminate – the tragedy of people with severe mental illness falling into the clutches of the criminal justice system. In this report, we look to how state criminal justice officials are responding to the colossal failure of their mental health counterparts to meet this challenge.
Research conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center
Police in China said Saturday that a suicidal man was responsible for a fire that swept through a commuter bus in the country’s eastern coastal city of Xiamen, killing 47 people including the arsonist and injuring dozens more.
Authorities say 59-year-old Chen Shuizong left a suicide note at his home before setting the fire aboard the bus during Friday’s rush hour. The official Xinhua news agency says he was “unhappy and pessimistic about his life, and planned the arson to vent personal grievances.”
The Associated Press gives a little background:
"China has seen bombings and arsons of buses and public buildings in recent years, by people trying to settle personal scores or having overtly political grievances.
In 2009, an unemployed man set fire to a packed bus in the central city of Chengdu, killing himself and 26 others. In other case, people angry or unhappy with life have used knives or other weapons in attacks on children at schools.”
Last week, Sesame Street added a new character, to whom more than 2.7 million American children can now relate. The show introduced Alex, a child whose father is in prison, in a video included in the online interactive, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration.”
The “Little Children, Big Challenges” feature aims to reach children facing complex challenges, including bullying, sibling rivalry and parental incarceration.
Recent reports indicate that more than half of inmates in the US have children under the age of 18. As a result, there are more than 2.7 million children with a parent that is incarcerated (that translates to 3.6% or 1 in 28 American children). Most of the parents (66%) are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
The Sesame Street website provides tips for caregivers to help the growing number of children affected by incarceration and features videos of both real-world children and Sesame Street characters sharing their own experiences with the subject.
Check out their tool-kit here. Well done Sesame Street, well done.
Pony play is animal play that can be sexual or non-sexual. You have to appreciate human variation. Did anyone else see the Bones episode with pony play?
Scot Sothern’s black and white photographs of prostitutes in Los Angeles.
Visualizing Punishment by Sarah Shannon and Chris Uggen
Four decades ago, the United States launched a grand policy experiment. The nation began locking up an unprecedented share of its citizens, increasing its rate of incarceration by more than 400% over the period.
I had a chance to see Sarah Shannon’s job talk at my university this past year. She did a great job, and this article gets to some of the points that she was forced to omit because of time restraints.
Check out the article for more graphic representations of incarceration rates.