America is always saying it’s the best. (Yee-haw!) I’ve been a sceptic but finally, irrevocable proof that America really is the best country on the whole goddamn planet – at locking up its citizens.
Actually, that’s old news to anyone who pays attention to such things. The United States has, for years, not only imprisoned a greater number of people than “human rights abusers” like China and Russia, but done so by ludicrous margins. (As of 2004 the US incarcerated 726 people in 100,000; Russia 532; China a mere 118.) What makes this story fresh and relevant is a new study that shows America now imprisons more than one in every 100 adults. That’s right. The incarceration rate has vaulted to make us the proud owners of a nice round number of prisoners: 1000 in every 100,000 adults.
What a number. It is almost metric in its beauty and simplicity. So much easier to just count off one in every hundred adults and slap ‘em in the slammer (obviously an incarceration rate of less than one percent means you’re just not trying hard enough).
The temptation is to sit back and stare in wonder that those statistics, but don’t put your feet up yet fact fans. It gets better. That figure is for the entire adult population. Break it down by race and – whoop dee doo – the news is even more riveting. “One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34” (IHT, 29 Feb 08). Don’t rush. Read that again, carefully. One in 36 Hispanic men. One in 15 adult black men. And the pièce de la résistance: one in nine black men between the ages of 20-34.
That isn’t a criminal justice system. That’s ethnic cleansing.
All in all, a proud day for George W Bush to attack Barak Obama – one of the few black men who slipped the dragnet – for saying he’d agree to meet new Cuban leader Raul Castro without preconditions (Cuba’s incarceration rate, incidentally, is roughly 80% lower than that of its “democratic” counterpart). To do so, Bush bleated, would give “great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.”
Really, Mr President? Mr Leader-of-the-free-world (and the only country apart from sworn enemy Iran to still execute minors)? I know figures aren’t your strong point, but the numbers don’t lie. If anyone should be worried about potentially dignifying those who “suppress human rights and dignity” it’s Raul Castro. His human rights record knocks America’s into a cocked hat.