What are some consequences of our imprisonment binge?
There are many consequences of this “binge.” Some are felt by society as a whole, some by the prisoners themselves, and some by certain segments of the population.
From the point of view of the prisoners, our binge can ruin lives. When we put people in jail for crimes that probably do not warrant that punishment (things like many drug offenses) we seriously harm their life chances. They are now convicted criminals. They are also taken out of the work force for a number of years. It will be very hard for them to get any sort of a good job after release.
From the point of view of the African American community, the binge is very bad. African Americans are overrepresented in our prison populations. Many scholars and activists argue that imprisoning so many African American men makes it harder for women in poor African American communities to find men who are worth marrying. This helps to exacerbate the trends towards poverty that already exist in such communities.
Finally, the binge affects all of us through our taxes. We imprison so many people that we end up having to spend tremendous amounts of tax money on prisons. This means that our government lacks the money to do many other things that would be beneficial to us as a society.