Why is the USA so high? It's not more crime, of the violent homicide and robbery variety. It's harsher sentencing, especially for drug-related crimes. That's one of many points Richard Wilkinson makes in this TED Talk from July 2011, in which he uses hard data to tie income inequality not only to imprisonment, also to child conflict, drug abuse, infant mortality, life expectancy, mental illness, obesity, high school dropouts, teenage births, and social mobility. The most socially mobile country? Denmark. The least? The USA.
I got his slides from The Equality Trust.
Oh yes: we don't need a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia to make a few CCA executives and shareholders richer at the expense of the rest of us. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead.