The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Those US incarceration rates...

Everything's bigger in America may be at its truest in relation to estimates of national self-worth [1]. But here's a stat where it's right on the money (and this). (Nothing new here: just some self-education.)

I get up this table (PDF) of state incarceration rates [2] in 2001 from casual interest. The average for that year was 422 per 100,000: the range was 127-800.

Of the top ten (range 800-492), the Confederacy accounts for six (LA, MS, TX, AL, GA, SC); other slave states two (MO, DE); with the rest having had legal segregation, to some extent, during the Jim Crow era (OK, AZ).

Of the bottom ten (range 243-127), five are New England states (MA, VT, NH, RI, ME) - Connecticut ranks 22nd (387); the rest from the Mid-West (NE, MN and ND) and West (UT), together with Union slave state West Virginia [3].

It's a puzzle (that no doubt employs armies of socio- and other ologists) how these differences might be accounted for. Why, for instance, Mississippi and Arkansas (motto: Thank God for Mississippi) should have rates so different: 715 vs 447.

And (with current events in mind) why, after ten years or so of Governor Howard Dean, Vermont should need a rate of 213 whilst nearby Maine could keep order with just 127.

  1. I know there's competition there! For another day...

  2. That is - I gather from the page - counting only those incarcerated for offences against state laws. Those convicted under Federal law are not in these numbers.

  3. The disposition of WV slaves was naturally controversial. According to this, the Convention rejected a proposal by one Gordon Battelle that the Constitution include a provision for a form of gradual emancipation, not unlike that adopted by Northern states following independence.

    But, in the course of enacting the necessary legislation, Congress inserted a provision (the Willey Amendment) to provide that very thing. West Virginia was admitted to statehood on December 31 1862.

    (Materials available here, from a UWV course on West Virginia history, and on the West Virginia Archives site.)

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