Why is the U.S. known as the 'incarceration nation?'

The United States isn't the biggest country in the world, nor are its laws the most Draconian. So why does the U.S. continue to have the highest prison population in the world?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), roughly 2.2 million adults were behind bars in this country in 2016. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. The "War on Drugs"

At the federal level, half of all inmates are imprisoned for drug crimes -- despite the fact that prison does nothing to help with addiction or rehabilitation.

2. Traps in the system

Recidivism, or the likelihood that an inmate will re-offend after an initial conviction, is high. That's largely because anyone with a rap sheet is going to struggle to find work, which means that they may return to a criminal occupation out of perceived necessity.

The prison system often does little to prepare inmates for the outside world. Without adequate coping skills, many former prisoners are likely to end up in trouble again.

3. Uneven enforcement

People of color are more likely to be behind bars than Whites. Systemic racism in the criminal justice system is a known problem, and it sends a disproportionate number of Blacks and Hispanics to jail more often (and for longer) than Whites convicted of similar crimes.

4. Poverty

Poor people often stay in jail while waiting on a trial because they cannot afford their bail. When someone can afford their bail, they're often in a better position to assist in their own defense, negotiate a better plea bargain or fight the charges entirely.

Make no mistake about it: If you've been charged with a crime, you need an experienced defense attorney on your side. Take steps today to protect your rights and your freedom.

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