© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Virginia Locks Up More People than the National Average

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Of every hundred thousand people in Virginia, 749 are behind bars, outpacing Russia and Cuba and other countries ruled by dictators, and at the Prison Policy Initiative, Wanda Bertram says we imprison far more people than other democracies.

“I can assure you that your state locks up twice as many people per capita compared to the UK, Canada, Germany, Norway, countries like that.”

It is possible, of course, that this state – and this country – have more bad people, but Bertram says that’s not the case. Instead, she claims the U.S. and Virginia do a poor job of providing for people’s basic needs.

“We have such high incarceration rates because we have chosen not to invest in social services like healthcare, housing, education.”

And experts estimate 10-25% of prisoners in this state and country suffer from serious mental illness.

“ I think anybody with a severe mental illness or who has a loved one with a mental illness will tell you, it can be difficult to get the treatment that you need.”

Bertram also notes many inmates are locked up for violating the terms of their probation or parole – a sign she says we’re not doing enough to help them re-enter society.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief