"The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and Britain - with a rate among the highest - has 153....
This wide gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is relatively recent. In 1980 the U.S.’s prison population was about 150 per 100,000 adults. It has more than quadrupled since then. So something has happened in the past 30 years to push millions of Americans into prison.
That something, of course, is the war on drugs. Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges."
Again it seems to me we are a paranoid nation. We outspend the rest of the world on our military, and we imprison more people per capita than any other country. Why? Are we attacked more? Do we have worse people? I chalk it up to paranoia. Part of this comes from "get tough" political rhetoric used to win votes. We're too soft on criminals! The world is a scary place! Iran might get a nuke! So these guys get voted in, then they live up to their rhetoric by spending on guns and prisons.
Did you know there are countries without a military? Did you know China has fewer people in prison than the US? What's going on? Why the fear?
Here's a bit more info; http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-americans-in-jail-2012-3