How do other nations view imprisonment and put it into practice?
Comparing different countries' use of imprisonment, in this view, is meaningless unless we also take into account the underlying crime rate. [ If the United States has more crime- or more serious crime- than other countries, then of course we'll have more imprisonment, other things being equal. This is an important point, if it is not taken too far. Unfortunately, it often is. There is a
tendency among some commentators to want to downplay America's unusual prominence when it comes to crime and punishment, despite what the figures would seem to show. Some even want to have it both ways- arguing, almost in one breath, that the United States does not have an unusually severe crime problem and that it is not noticeably more punitive than other industrial countries. Obviously, however, that can't be true; our high incarceration rate relative to those of other countries must mean either than we have more (or worse) crime to begin with or that we are more severe with the criminals we have, or some combination of both. It cannot come from nowhere.
In fact, the best evidence shows that America's "exceptionalism" is indeed a combination of both factors. As we'll see in detail later, crime is worse in the United States- especially major crimes of violence, but also some less serious offenses, including drug crimes. And though comparing sentencing practices across different countries is a very tricky enterprise, the best research suggests that we are tougher on many kinds of offenders than other industrial countries for which we have comparable data.
There are no new answers.