|Nicholas Eberstadt/AEI photo|
Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute laments a lack of information about our undocumented population and our ex-felon population. Together they make up about 11 percent of the population.
Here is Eberstadt in the Washington Post:
The United States today is home to two huge but essentially invisible populations. Each of them is widely stigmatized and largely composed of people living in the shadows. The government does not know who they are, where they are or how well they are doing.
The first of these invisible tribes — illegal immigrants ; .... America’s second invisible caste is ... our vast underground army of released felons — adult men and women convicted of serious criminal offenses for which they have been punished with prison time or probation, and who now form part of the general population....Eberstadt cites to the following statistics about our prison population from the ACLU.
- With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has more than 20% of the world’s prison population – that makes us the world’s largest jailer.
- From 1978 to 2014, our prison population has risen 408%.
- One in 110 adults are incarcerated in a prison or local jail in the U.S. This marks the highest rate of imprisonment in American history.
Estimates are that the population of released felons, which we are not tracking, is as high as 23 million. If we add to this the 2.2 million total population that is currently incarcerated in our jails and prisons, this amounts to 25 million people.
- One in 35 adults are under some form of correctional control, counting prison, jail, parole and probation populations.
Together these two invisible populations (the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, and the undocumented) amount to 36 million people--more than 11 percent of the population.
Eberstadt's next comments here are limited to the ex-felon population, but the advice surely applies equally to the undocumented:
Given this reality, one might think policymakers would have an interest in knowing at least a little about this major segment of our population. Wrong: To judge by the data our democracy collects, the circumstances of this ex-con population are a matter of almost complete indifference to the rest of us. These individuals show up only in our statistics on crime and punishment — in other words, when they run afoul of the criminal justice system.
We don’t know how many children they have, their marital status, who they live with, their housing situations. We don’t know their mortality rates or life expectancy, their disease and disability profile, their mental-health status. We do not know their labor force participation rates, unemployment rates, jobs by sector or wages. Apart from broad generalities, we know roughly nothing about their education patterns, skills or training....We need them to succeed: as fathers and mothers, as breadwinners, as citizens — .... Our society can’t hope to flourish with  million modern-day outcasts in our midst.Gathering better statistics seems like a good first step to intelligent discussion.
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