The US jail population as a proportion of the general national population is the largest in the developed world.
I can think of a few explanations:
The welfare system distorts people's decisions in a horrible way: there is a strong disincentive to start working. Quite sensibly, the more a person earns, the less benefits he receives, but early in the curve making the first $100 (or $1,000) can reduce your benefits drastically (specifically, the Medicaid is withdrawn). This means that people on welfare stop to even consider legitimate employment until and unless their benefits are canceled first. This forces some of them into the shadow economy and others into crime (along the usual path: from leisure to drugs to crime).
The abilities of a homogeneous group of people are distributed according to the Normal Law (this follows from the Central Limit Theorem) which looks like a bell curve.
The employable population is located close to the center of curve. People far to the left of the distribution are not smart enough to use the increasingly complex technology that pervades the modern industrial society.
A combination of several normal distributions is not normal and may have a higher share of substandard individuals.
Lawyers are so expensive that any contest between equals is, essentially, a war of attrition. The contingency system, whereas the attorney is paid from the court award, if any, is good only for high-value cases and is not relevant to criminal cases anyway.
First a joke:
--Why does every university has a Math department?
--Because it is cheaper than institutionalizing all these people!
When I first came to the US (in 1992 to Los Angeles, CA), I was stunned to discover that there are actually some homeless people here in the US! (Soviet media lied so much that I came to presume that they were lying until I got an independent confirmation, so I assumed that since the American homeless were the staple of the Soviet propaganda, they must not exist.) Later I mentioned my surprise to a lawyer friend and he said that the problem of the homeless was, to a large degree, the lawyers' fault: they fought for the Civil Rights of the people forcefully institutionalized and won their freedom only to discover that many newly liberated people were unable to function in the society, so they ended up homeless or jailed.
Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.
The idiotic war on drugs imprisons some non-violent people who should either be hospitalized (if they cannot take care of themselves) or left alone (if they can).
Mariana Beytelman suggested the 4th explanation.
|Sam Steingold<email@example.com>||created: 2006-07-27|