What CBS Sunday Morning calls the U.S. “epidemic of incarceration” costs $63.4 billion annually. Nearly 2.4 million people are behind bars, even though over the last 20 years the crime rate has dropped 40 percent. “The United States has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners – we incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any country on Earth,” said Michael Jacobson of the Vera Institute of Justice, former New York City’s correction director.
Not far from Tallahassee, Florida is building a re-entry center for 400 non-violent inmates. There they’ll cost taxpayers half what the state would spend on keeping them in prison. “This is the smart way of trying to deal with our prison population,” said Walter McNeil, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “We know that the vast majority of the people in prison are going to return to prison unless we do something different.”