USA: The Incarceration Nation Beats Stalin

Incarceration Nation
Incarceration Nation

I started, as usual, with a perfectly innocent question: “How bad was life in Russia for a “regular” person under Stalin?” Pretty bad, I presumed, let me find some numbers.

I figured a particularly damning number would be what percent of the population was in the gulag system at the close of the Great Purge? In 1940 Russia had a population of about 192 million. Of these, 1.3 million were incarcerated. (page 1019) The percentage of the population incarcerated was .67%.

How does that compare with our own marvelous, progressive nation, say in 2010? In 2010, the population of the US was 308 million. Of these, 2.3 million were incarcerated in 2010. The percentage of the population incarcerated was .74%.

Have you ever had blinking cursor syndrome? This occurs when a fact is difficult to absorb and all motor activity shuts down temporarily so your brain can try to process the fact. During this interval you stare at the blinking cursor. It is difficult to absorb the fact that the US has a higher percentage of citizens incarcerated than Stalin at the close of the Great Purge.

This is not only disturbing fact but also a rather important fact. It raises still more questions. What the heck is going on in the United States? But wait, our incarcerated are criminals, not political prisoners. Obviously, many of Russia’s incarcerated were also “regular” criminals-murderers, rapists and robbers. How many were political prisoners? There is no way to know. Surely Stalin justified jailing political prisoners on the grounds that they were a threat to the safety and stability of society.

But we don’t have political prisoners. Do we? Sure, the percent of jailed people of color is quite disproportionate to white people, but doesn’t that just mean they are committing more crimes? Or is something political going on? There it is again, blinking cursor syndrome.


  1. While the population incarcerated in America is atrocious I’d like to note that life was still decidedly worse in Stalin’s Russia through the Purges. One big difference being that Stalin’s prison camps had around a 97% death rate. The 1.3 million incarcerated was probably a fair estimate for any year from 1937-1938, the numbers being continually replenished as people were starved, worked to death, or shot. In all, approximately 20 million people lost their lives under Stalin (that would be about ten percent of the population). I source Robert Conquest book, The Great Terror:

    1. I’m not going to defend Stalin, or any ideologue who values their monomaniacal idea to renew the earth and bring on Utopia. I insist on the value of human life-all human life. To Stalin (and some today) humans were machines-“No man, no problem” he said and so he got rid of his problems. Question is: Do WE value all human life? The Ukranian Holomere that killed millions was simply his letting them starve to death when it was in his power to feed them. Do we do anything like that? We are only responsible for our actions. Stalin was responsible for his.

      Are WE doing anything wrong?

  2. “But we don’t have political prisoners. Do we? Sure, the percent of jailed people of color is quite disproportionate to white people,”

    Oh wow. Here we go.
    First of all, this isn’t a race issue. It’s a nation issue. There are way too many individuals – OF ALL COLORS – thrown into prison in the U.S. due to the sensationalism of crime/arrest/court/sentencing via the media.

    Crying “it’s because of my color” is inaccurate and ignorant., so shall we realize we are over a decade into the 21st century and in many ways white people are suffering discrimination now.
    You can “claim” many things based on color UNLESS you are white, and then if you say “White this” or “White that” the media conditioning kicks in and the word “racist” tends to follow.

    People, firstly, need to snap out of their automatonic zombie state mentality of;

    Watch TV and REACT emotionally, then say (literally or figuratively) “There oughtta be a LAW!” which then through a series of reactive actions turns into RIDICULOUS mandatory minimum sentencing.

    Mandatory minimum sentencing disallows any consideration of mitigating factors which vary from incident to incident. Whether the consideration be by judge or jury. These mandatory minimums give the outward appearance of “being tough on crime” but are impractical, at the very least. What they ARE is a direct effect of sensationalist media directed frenzy that pressurizes legislators to “get tough on crime” based on this Colosseum culture mentality.

    These mandatory minimum sentencing laws are ridiculous and evil. They are one of the, if not THE reason why U.S. incarceration rates are insanely high.

    Stalin? It’s an interesting comparison, but the difference from Stalin’s tyranny and tyranny in the U.S. are vastly different.In the 30s and 40s people could not connect with each other via smartphone and/or the internet.

    Now, we have all this technology, yet why does this ridiculous criminalization of the public continue?

    Shame on you for contributing to the wedge of dissension in this country by trying to say it’s a black thing.

    It’s a Red White and Blue thing, the “racism” angle is disinformation which distracts from the original point.

    Our legal system is at fault and either intentionally or passively destabilizing the United States.

    1. So you blame the media? Plenty of blame to go around. Certain personalities value order above all else. They readily respond to fear. War on Drugs, Tough on Crime, heavy military all find favor in their eyes-and get people elected.

      Remember “soft on communism”? Political death sentence, so they had to APPEAR tough on those commies. Powers that shouldn’t be come up with all these “wars” to promote to distract us from the real issues. It works.

      Sorry, race is behind the drug laws. Perhaps you’re too young to remember that weed was a “colored” thing. We have a surplus of young men and when they aren’t employed, they cause trouble. Lock them up. Or create jobs? But no, that would cut corporate profits in China.

      So they are political prisoners, just in a more subtle way. These are political decisions.

      Stalin sucked. So does our incarceration nation. America has the potential for greatness. Needs a little work.

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