04/09/2009 - The U.S. has the highest incarceration rates in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, it has almost a quarter of the prisoners. According to a recent study, more than 1 in 100 Americans are behind bars for the first time in history.
These simple facts stand as a stunning indictment of a criminal-justice system that is better at sending people to prison than at dealing with crime, including the growing phenomenon of gang violence. We need a top-to-bottom review of a system that too often fails to balance the need for public safety and deterrence with just punishment - punishment that fits the crime.
Our justice system needs repair. Prison for people who don't need to be there is not only unjust but expensive. The country spent $68 billion on corrections in 2008 at an average inmate cost of $49 a day, or $29,000 a year. By contrast, probation costs $3.42 a day and parole $7.47, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Read the full editorial Crime & Punishment on the Philadelphia Daily News's Web site.