I started this here to avoid arguments that amount to flinging cites and stats at each other, to open it up to opinion.
One easy answer is drug laws, and that non-violent drug offenders make up for a large portion of America’s jail and prison pop. But I’m not sure here, I have seen no evidence America has more or less drug users than elsewhere.
Something else that I can’t understand is how the incarcerated population doesn’t seem to translate to street crime, America certainly doesn’t seem like a place where petty crime is non-existant.
One point raised in a NYTimes article I found very persuasive is that Americans have a fetish for process, and so long as this process is followed then the result must be just even if it isn’t(to some subjective standard).