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It's the incarceration rate that matters. Here's a graph of the percentage of Americans who are incarcerated:
But you can see the incarceration rate has also dramatically increased!
I noticed that the original graph stretched the periods 1980-1990 and 2000-2008, and squeezed a few sections to make the time axis linear: every ten years takes the same space.
The increase in incarcerated Americans is even more dramatic here, but it no longer coincides with the Sentencing Reform Act.
I wonder (1) what a graph of incarcerated Americans per capita would look like, to control for rising population, and (2) whether anything happened around 1980 that might be related to the visible increase.
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