Dancing with Our Light and Our Shadow

andrew ciscel via flickrIt’s often easy to be at peace with notions of oneness when we consider the sunnier side of life and look at people in whom we can see our own goodness. But when it comes to those who are animating their shadows a bit more, like perpetrators and even some victims, our minds can go into automatic shut down and we reaffirm our separation.

We do this on an individual level, and certainly on a societal level as well. In the United States, our prison population is larger than ever. Here are some recent statistics on the trend in our penal systems:

Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.
Source: Pew Center on the States

In 2009, over 7.2 million people were under some form of correctional supervision including parole, jail, and probation. This is just slightly smaller than the entire population of Switzerland.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Four in 10 offenders return within three years.
Pew Charitable Trusts

93% of people in prison were male, 7% were female.
Source: The Sentencing Project

Nearly half (47%) of people incarcerated in state prisons in 2009 were convicted of non-violent drug,
property, or public order crimes.
Source: The Sentencing Project

No society in history has imprisoned more of its citizens than the USA.
Source: Stephen Fry

What do you think these statistics are reflecting? What – if anything – do you think can be done to shift this trend?

Also, how is the penal system handled in your country? Tell us more about the way your culture deals with light and dark among its people.

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