Over the past four decades, the USA has packed prisons and jails to the bursting point. The incarceration boom also has meant more resources spent on corrections — about $80 billion annually on state and federal prisons – a truly staggering amount of money that doesn’t include costs of probation or parole. The vast majority of prisoners are poor, uneducated, people of color, mentally retarded, and approximately half of whom suffer from various mental health illnesses.
One out of every 100 American adults is incarcerated, a per capita rate five to 10 times higher than that in Western Europe or other democracies. the USA consistently stands as the world leader in incarceration by a substantial margin.
No other country in the world imprisons its citizens as does the USA (aka The Incarceration Nation of the World).
The death penalty was re-introduced in the USA in 1973 — the only Western nation that continues to execute its own citizens. During this time, more than 155 death row prisoners have been released after evidence emerged of their wrongful conviction during their appeals process. This high number of wrongful convictions strongly suggests that wrongly convicted people have been executed in the past where legal mistakes have not been discovered in time.
For whatever reason, legislators and politicians have found it politically advantageous and expedient to continue to pursue a strategy of punitive crime control policies, irrespective of the cost of that policy.
In addition to the deprivations of ordinary prison life, further concerns arise with solitary or isolated confinement — when prisoners are typically confined to their cells for 23 or more hours per day, with little or no programming or meaningful social interaction. This kind of confinement creates serious psychological risks for prisoners; many of them experience panic, anxiety, rage, depression and hallucinations, especially when confined for long periods of time (some up to 25 years).
There have been many reported cases where people enter prison without symptoms of mental illness and become mentally ill while confined in solitary or isolated confinement.
Overcrowded prisons also can produce worsened health and mental problems, decreased psychological well-being and increased risk of suicides.