Criminal Punishment

I continue to rail about the ways in which the U.S. fails to adjust to modern democratic practices, particularly when it comes to punishment for crimes. We have the highest prison and jail population in the world (2,121,600 in adult facilities in 2016, the most recent year for which I could find figures), and the highest incarceration rate in the world (655 per 100,000 population in 2016). And the U.S. is the only G7 country where capital punishment is legal. Methods of executing prisoners in use in the U.S. are hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection.

What are the alternatives to incarceration? Probation, enforced restitution, community service, and enforced rehabilitative services.  And to capital punishment? Long incarceration, including until death.

Does more severe punishment reduce our crime rate? No. U.S. crime rates for the three violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery) are several times higher than the averages for reporting European countries. According to one source, the U.S. homicide rate is 10.5 per 100,000 population compared to Europe’s less than 2 per 100,000.

I have no idea why we have a higher incarceration and execution rate than the G7 countries and at the same time have more crime. Visitors to our country sometimes accuse us of being people addicted to violence. I can offer no evidence to prove them wrong.

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