Why America is Addicted To Prisons

September 30th 2015

Diana Crandall

Might as well face it, America is addicted to jail.

With more than 2.2 million people currently incarcerated, the U.S. boasts the highest prison rate in the world. Yes, in the world.

It’s not cheap, either. As ATTN: has previously reported, not only do many prisons have a for-profit structure and a staggeringly high prison population of 2.2 million, a 2012 study by the Vera Institute of Justice estimates that housing one inmate for a year costs $31,286. The highest estimates reach up to $60,000.

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The total cost of state prisons costs taxpayers about $39 billion in the 40 states that participated in the study.

There are currently about 280,000 people incarcerated in federal prison, which is an 800 percent increase from 1980.

But why is America so addicted to prison?

There are a few reasons. For one, mandatory minimum sentences mean that the punishment does not necessarily fit the crime. Congress has passed laws that force judges and prosecutors to give people a minimum amount of time in jail. Earlier this year, "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver criticized fixed prison sentences, saying “almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum laws were a mistake.”

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Mass Incarceration

In addition to these mandatory minimums, Congress has created more than 400 new federal crimes since 2008. Not only are imprisoned people incarcerated longer, but there are more ways than ever to get them behind bars.

RELATED: This is What Happens When We’re ‘Tough On Crime’

Finally, Congress banned federal parole in 1987. Anyone arrested for a federal crime in what now spans nearly two decades is unable to get out on parole.

Check out this ATTN: video to learn more:

3 Reasons Why America is Addicted to Prison

3 Reasons Why America is Addicted to Prison

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