America’s New Safety Net: Prison
by Barry Scott Sussman
The U.S. prides itself as being “number one” in a general, meaningless sense, but routinely ranks towards the bottom of developed nations in social services provided. Indeed, the U.S. currently ranks 34th in infant mortality, 12th among developed nations in college graduation, 37th in access to health care, and 28th in life expectancy. As a result of these and other glaring deficiencies, Americans with nowhere else to turn are in growing numbers opting for prison. Incarceration is the one category in which America is without question the undisputed world leader in both number and percentage of people imprisoned. Dwight Eisenhower once quipped, “If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads.” Today many Americans are making prison a choice not because of a desire for security, but rather in a desperate search for the basic amenities cited by Eisenhower.