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November 30, 2012; Source: Think Progress

Some social indicators make you shudder. According to Think Progress, there are lots of Americans in jail, or on probation or parole ­­– one in 34 adults, as tabulated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That’s an amazing statistic. That’s one out of 50 adults on probation or parole and one out of 107 incarcerated.

It means that the U.S. is “the number one jailer in the world, with a rate of incarceration that far eclipses that in every other major developed nation.” And that is after three years of declines in the number of people in jail or prison, including a decrease of 1.3 percent in 2011 (PDF). Realize that these statistics don’t include juvenile detenion numbers.

Although the rates declined between 2010 and 2011, the trends over the past decade are alarming for this country. The number of people in federal prisons increased 3.9 percent, but the number in privately operated federal prisons increased 9.9 percent (the number in privately operated state facilities increased 2.2 percent). While the overall prison population dropped between 2010 and 2011, the number of prisoners under military jurisdiction increased 3.5 percent.

These statistics mean that there will be a pipeline of needs for organizations such as HOPE for Prisoners in Las Vegas and the Lateral Foundation in Warren, Ohio, which work on helping former prisoners integrate back into society. But the U.S. has to figure out how it has come to lead the world in incarceration and reduce the demand for prisoner re-entry programs.—Rick Cohen