Which country has the largest number of people in jail? Like me, I’d guess that most people would say China or Russia. But that’s not the case. According to a story in this morning’s Herald Tribune, the number of people in jail in the United States has reached 2.3 million – that’s one per cent of the adult population of 230 million.

It’s quite disturbing to learn that 1 in 100 adult Americans are in jail. China is a distant second with 1.5 million in jail, but of course they have four times the population.

The story was based on a just-released report by the Pew Center on the States which highlighted that the incarceration rates were even higher for some groups – 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men are behind bars, 1 in 15 adult black men and 1 in 9 black men aged 20 to 34.

I suppose these shocking figures could be a consequence of the fact that more crimes are solved in the US than in most other countries, but it is also a sad reflection of the breakdown in values in modern day America.

For a country that spends a lot of time trying to impose its own values on cultures in other parts of the world, it is not setting a very good example at home.

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