Another reason for the huge increase in incarceration and fatherless youth

by John MacBeath Watkins

In this post, we talked about the increase in people incarcerated in proportion to population, which has increased five-fold in three decades. This post on Talking Points Memo points to one of the reasons this has become self-sustaining:

Private prison companies have helped fuel government policies which lead to an increase in prison population and boost their profits, according to a recent report.

The private prison population has grown 353.7 percent in the past 15 years, according to a study by the Justice Policy Institute. Major private prison companies have an incentive to encourage policies which keep that number on the rise...
...Some of the biggest names in the private prison industry have given $835,514 to federal candidates since 2000 and a stunning $6,092,331 to state politicians in the last five elections.

And it's not hard to push peoples' buttons on an issue like crime during the heat of an election campaign. I find it utterly amazing that as recently as 1980, we had about the average incarceration rate for the world, and we now have five times the average incarceration rate. It's as if there were a revolution that no one noticed, as if the Committee of Public Safety had set up the guillotine and run it faster and faster while people walked by without looking.

How does this tie in with the increase in the number of single moms? Remember that it is disproportionately young black men, the very ones that we want to stay with their wives and children, that are being imprisoned, and few things could disrupt a family more. Of course, two of those "few things" is those same men either having a drug addiction or participating in gang activities, which are fed by the lucrative drug trade. We've tried fighting the drug trade with a "war," which all the evidence indicates has not worked. Legalization may not be a panacea, but it's one of the options we should be exploring.