On World Population Day, We Should Reflect on Our Need to Reduce the Number of Americans Behind Bars

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On World Population Day, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the vulnerable population in prisons and jails across the U.S.

People in prison today suffer from punishing, harsh, and onerous conditions of confinement. There is extensive research and reporting detailing the inhumane and unsanitary conditions of many jails and prisons, as well as the physical, emotional, and mental torment of the people held in them. One example is the overuse of solitary confinement, where individuals are incarcerated in small spaces—typically the size of a parking space—with no human interaction, a practice that can cause and exacerbate severe mental illness. For those returning home from prison, adjusting to life in the community can be difficult, particularly given the collateral consequences of criminal conviction—such as employment discrimination. This can lead to poverty and serve as a gateway to recidivism, a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person undergoes intervention for a previous crime.

Following decades of continued growth, total incarceration numbers in the United States appear to be going down. However, these rates of decline are not universal. On World Population Day, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the vulnerable population in prisons and jails across the U.S. It is imperative that we band together in efforts to combat the injustices of mass incarceration and change this population statistic.