In the United States, a democratic and free country, there are 2.3 million adults in prison and jail. That means one of every 99 adults is behind bars. In China, a communist and oppressive country, there are 1.5 million adults in prison and jail. That means one of every 708 adults is behind bars.*
Also, minorities continue to make up an enormously disproportionate percentage of the incarcerated. Approximately 41% of the adult prison/jail population is black, while 19% are Hispanic.
One in every nine black men between the ages of 25 and 29 are sitting in prison. Of the same age group, one in every 26 Hispanic men are sitting in prison and one in every 59 white men.
When the numbers are expanded to black men between the ages of 20 and 29, the figure rises dramatically. One in three black men between 20 and 29 are in prison or jail.
Finally, black men have a one in three chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives. Hispanic men have a 17 percent chance, while white men have a six percent chance.**
Its easy for "white folks," the majority and most privileged population in the US, to look at these figures and say, "Wow, what's their problem?" I've heard this response many times over. But, the truth is, this is not their problem. If African-Americans are Americans, if Hispanic-Americans are Americans, then this, my friends, is OUR problem.
These men are our citizens. These men are our brothers. These men are our family. We need to be concerned and working to make a change.
*Pew Center on the States, February 2008 and the CIA World Factbook, 2008.
**Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006.