October 3, 2007

"Mass Incarceration in the United States: At What Cost?"

Unebelievably, that is the title of a Congressional hearing tomorrow morning.

Legislators, it seems, are finally noticing the staggering costs of mass incarceration, estimated at more than $200 billion per year.

The Joint Economic Committee wants to know why the United States has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, when we are only 5 percent of the world's population. It plans to explore this question, as well as ways to address incarceration "that responsibly balance public safety and the high social and economic costs of imprisonment."

About time, huh? I sure hope this is part of the pendulum swing that I've been predicting here!

The JEC announcement, along with transcripts of the statements by some of the expert witnesses, is here. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who organized the hearing, has some good data, charts, and graphs at his website.

Hat tip to Sentencing Law & Policy for alerting me to this hearing.