Quite the most horrific number to come out of Paul Ryan’s poverty plan was the point that for young African American men, those who have dropped out of high school, they’re more likely to be in jail than they are in employment. John Cochrane has picked up on this and so subsequently has Mark Perry, from whom I’ve borrowed that chart above.

The cause, of course, is the horrible confluence of the appalling inner city education system in the US plus the effects of the near entirely insane “War on Drugs”. And do read Cochrane’s piece where we find this:

And really, that’s just the surface. Neal and Rick’s numbers don’t count the numbers on parole or otherwise under the supervision of the criminal justice system. And their numbers miss one of the biggest effects: In America, once you have a criminal record — often even just an arrest record — getting a job becomes next to impossible. So the flow through the criminal justice system, as much as the numbers currently in jail, is an important measure of its effect.

Becky Petit’s Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress calculates the cumulative risk of imprisonment, which gives a sense of how many people are in this quandary.

The less than high school black number rose from 14.7% in 1979 to an astounding 68% in the latest numbers. Nearly 70 percent of black high school dropouts will spend time in jail. And pretty much end their hopes for conventional employment as a result. (Things aren’t great for white high school dropouts either, and 21% for black high school graduates is pretty shocking too.)

The UK’s not this bad, not yet, but we do have a large racial imbalance in the prison system. And again it’s largely due to those two activities on the State: the inner city education system and that War on Drugs.

We here support the legalisation (or at the very least, the decriminalisation) of drugs on the entirely liberal grounds that they’re out bodies and self-ownership means that we as individuals get to decide what goes into them. But if that’s not enough for you those numbers above might, or at least we hope they would, sway you over to our side of this argument. For the War on Drugs is having a great deal too much collateral damage, isn’t it?