The United States currently leads the world in its prison population. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the United States represents roughly five percent of the world 's population, but has over twenty percent of the world 's prison population. Surprisingly, the United States has seen a sharp decline in the annual crime rate since the late 1990s, but incarceration rates have steadily increased. Furthermore, the United States leads the developed world with its prisoner rate, where other developed countries like France, Canada, Switzerland and the U.K. have substantially lower rates of imprisonment. Conversely, China, which is often portrayed as a police state, accounts for over nineteen percent of the world 's population, but only represents a little over five percent of the world 's prison population (World Prison Brief). Additionally, it is estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that each inmate costs U.S. taxpayers a substantial amount of money annually. It costs approximately 30,000 dollars to imprison every inmate per year, and in states like California and New York the price per inmate can double. This is astonishing as there are cheaper alternatives to incarceration, especially for nonviolent offenders.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
― Nelson Mandela
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