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US prison population just got larger … this time it is kids

February 13, 2009 3 comments

Two American judges charged with accepting bribes to convict juveniles for imprisonment at a private sector prison – a disaster waiting to happen.

Put em in ...

Put 'em in ...

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on January 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania supreme court.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on. (via New low: US judges jailed kids for cash-US-World-The Times of India).

Just a short step away …

USA, with a population of 30 crores (300 million), has a criminal population of 70 lakhs (7 million) – behind bars, on probation or on parole. US Government estimates a figure of 20 lakhs (2 million) people serving prison sentences.

And this was something that was waiting to happen. It is no accident.

In contrast …

The current status of Indian criminal system is a study in contrast.

India, with a population of 110 crores (1100 million) has a prison population of 2 lakhs (0.2 million). The Indian National Human Rights Commission gives a figure of 3.5 lakhs as the prison population – including convicts and those who are undergoing trial. The UK Home Office survey of World Prison Population estimates Indian prison population at 2.5 lakhs.

With less than 25 people per 100,000 in prison India has the world’s lowest imprisonment rate. Cynics may snicker at India’s ‘inefficient’ police or the slow court procedures as the cause for this low prison population. That can only mean criminals are at large and India must, therefore have the highest crime rate – which is not true. India has low or average crime rates – based on category.

The root causes of high crime levels …

At different times, high crime levels are blamed on the following five elements. The theory in crime management is control these five and you are in control: -

  1. Police to population ratio (increase police force).
  2. Prison population (put more criminals behind bars)
  3. Capital punishment (kill enough criminals to instil fear)
  4. Poverty (it is povery which the root of all crime)
  5. Gun ownership (more guns means more crime)

The Indian conundrum …

India has the low scores on the first three indices – low number of policemen, low prison population and low capital punishment number – and high on gun ownership and poverty.

Yet the crime rate in India is in the low-to-average range. How come?

Is it difficult to imprison people?

Increased imprisonment of suspected criminals can be easily enabled by lowering burden of proof and creating legislation which will allow for incarceration.

For instance, the various laws under which disproportionately large number of African-Americans were disenfranchised and /or imprisoned in the US. Or the large number of Muslims have been imprisoned in the UK.

And that brings us back to the central question …

How is it that India has the lowest prison population, the lowest police-to-population ratio and an average crime rate?

Behind the paradox is  4000 years in history

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