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Thursday, Nov 3, 2005, 1:31 pm

7 million, and counting: We need these kinds of milestones?

By Silja J.A. Talvi

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released findings that the total number of adults under some form of American correctional supervision reached 6,996,500 last year. (To put this number in perspective, that's more than the entire population of Israel.)

Last month, the BJS also announced a record-breaking high of 2.3 million incarcerated Americans, at a lock-em-up rate that outranks any other country in the world. Since 1995, in fact, the number of people imprisoned, or on parole or probation, has grown by over 1.6 million adults. One out of every 31 American adults is now under some kind of correctional supervision.

If you're still one of those of us left in the "free world," this might be an opportune time to take a good, hard look at the situation. The way things are going, life in a cellblock may not be as much of a far-fetched reality as you might think.

Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.

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