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How America’s prison epidemic spread

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How America’s prison epidemic spread

How did America’s addiction to prisons and mass incarceration get its start and how did it spread from state to state? Of the many attempts to answer this question, none makes as much sense as the explanation found in a new book titled “A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America.” According to public-health expert and Columbia professor Ernest Drucker, the rapid growth and spread of American prisons follows the classic life cycle of an infectious bacterial or viral epidemic.

For the years 1970-2009, the total number of federal prisoners increased from 21,094 to 208,118. State prison inmates went from 177,737 to 1.4 million.

When the 767,620 persons in local jails are added in, America’s grand total for 2009 was nearly 2.4 million persons behind bars — a world’s record. As for Louisiana, from 1970-2009, state inmates increased nine-fold, from 4,196 to nearly 40,000..........

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