U.S. is the Worst Police State in the World – By the Numbers


A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

There’s no getting around the fact that the United States is the Mother of All Police States. China can’t compete in the incarceration business. With four times the U.S. population, it imprisons only 70 percent as many people – about the same number as the non-white prison population of the U.S. Even worse, 80,000 U.S. inmates undergo the torture of solitary confinement on any given day.


U.S. is the Worst Police State in the World – By the Numbers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The American People of Color Gulag is as large as the entire prison population of China, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.”

When U.S. corporate media operatives use the term “police state,” they invariably mean some other country. Even the so-called “liberal” media, from Democracy Now to the MSNBC menagerie, cannot bring themselves to say “police state” and the “United States” without putting the qualifying words “like” or “becoming” in the middle. The U.S. is behaving “like” a police state, they say, or the U.S. is in danger of “becoming” a police state. But it is never a police state. Since these privileged speakers and writers are not themselves in prison – because what they write and say represents no actual danger to the state – they conclude that a U.S. police state does not, at this time, exist.

Considering the sheer size and social penetration of its police and imprisonment apparatus, the United States is not only a police state, but the biggest police state in the world, by far: the police state against whose dimensions all other police systems on Earth must be measured.

By now, even the most insulated, xenophobic resident of the Nebraska farm belt knows that the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world. He might not know that 25 percent of prison inmates in the world are locked up in the U.S., or that African Americans comprise one out of every eight of the planet’s prisoners. But, that Nebraska farmer is probably aware that America is number one in the prisons business. He probably approves. God bless the police state.

For the American media, including lots of media that claim to be of the Left, it is axiomatic that China is a police state. And maybe, by some standards, it is. But, according to United Nations figures, China is 87th in the world in the proportion of its people who are imprisoned. China is a billion people bigger than the United States – more than four times the population – yet U.S. prisons house in excess of 600,000 more people than China does. The Chinese prison population is just 70 percent of the American Gulag. That’s quite interesting because, non-whites make up about 70 percent of U.S. prisons. That means, the Black, brown, yellow and red populations of U.S. prisons number roughly the same as all of China’s incarcerated persons. Let me emphasize that: The American People of Color Gulag is as large as the entire prison population of China, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

Solitary confinement beyond 15 days at a stretch crosses the line of torture.”

However, police states must be measured by conditions behind the bars, as well as raw numbers of inmates. And, by that standard, the American Gulag is even more monstrous.

Civilized people now recognize that solitary confinement is a form of torture. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, reports that solitary confinement beyond 15 days at a stretch crosses the line of torture, yet, as Al Jazeera recently reported, it is typical for hundred of thousands of U.S. prisoners to spend 30 or 60 days in solitary at a stretch. Twenty thousand are held in perpetual isolation in so-called supermax prisons – that is, they exist in a perpetual state of torture. Studies now show that, all told, 80,000 U.S. prisoners are locked up in solitary on any given day. That’s as many tortured people as the entire prison system of Germany, or of England, Scotland and Wales, combined.

If that is not a police state, then no such thing exists on planet Earth.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to Black Agenda Report.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].


1 Comment

Gee, didn't Condi Rice just say this is the "free-est

country"?  Good article, G. Ford.  Solitary confinement is so American now.  The uses of it are so egregious.  (It doesn't even matter if I spelled it right.)  A pen-pal of mine had a chilling experience, a man (young enough to be my son, who  did call me "ma") I'd known for over a decade before he got parole about 2 years ago.  (Parole is yet another topic:how the US "correctional" system holds people beyond their "time", denying parole, ignoring sentences - beyond the whole subject of "unfair" sentencing and people who should never be in the system (e.g. the young, the mentally disabled - both groups with overlap, getting harsher sentences than the punitive sentencing in general who should not even be incarcerated), as well as political prisoners and "gang members", suspected or "real" is now a "crime"-and solitary confinement.  Well, I suppose if you criminalize everything you can think of, you keep the lockups full....$$$. And control, intimidation, population removal...

    My pen-pal, incarcerated for a nonviolent offense he committed, although his being shot in the back by NYPD = lifetime sentence by police of paralysis,NYPD claimed he had a gun, never found, because there never was a gun-he was unarmed, told me a story right after it happened.  Another incarcerated man thought my pen-pal had started a small fire in his belongings, so he set my pen-pal's belongings on fire.  My pen-pal was older and had leadership qualities, and he was wrongly accused.  The prison authorities put my pen-pal into solitary confinement for several days "for his own protection".  When he got out, he found my mail waiting and wrote what had happened.  He did his own investigation and got it all sorted out.  His only photo of his dead mother had been burned by the guy who torched his stuff, but my pen-pal did not retaliate.  I wrote that in my letter to the parole board.