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How Many Americans Are Behind Bars for No Good Reason?

Lots, according to a new report

It’s an undisputed fact that the United States is the incarceration capital of the world. Despite hosting only 4.4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. feeds, clothes, and houses nearly 22 percent of the world’s prisoners, or more than two million people. While violent victimization rates are comparable to other advanced Western nations — and crime rates have declined over the last several decades — the U.S.’s incarceration rate far outstrips any other nation on the planet. In fact, individual states surpass dozens of other countries in prisoners per capita; Louisiana alone imprisons its residents at a higher rate than Iran, China, or Germany.

But the most alarming part of American’s morph into a carceral state is the fact that so many inmates simply don’t deserve to be there. A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice suggests that some 39 percent of American prisoners are “unnecessarily incarcerated” with “little public safety rationale.” That’s 576,000 people locked up for relatively minor crimes ranging from drug possession to simple assault, one-time offenders who the Brennan Center argues could be better served through alternative means of punishment and rehabilitation “with limited impact on public safety” rather than being condemned to a cycle of crime and punishment.

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