I encourage you to read this article on mass incarceration in the United States at City Journal by Rafael A. Mangual. Here’s a snippet:
Because so few American prisoners are serving time for trivial infractions, aligning America’s incarceration numbers with those of, say, England or Germany would require releasing many very serious and frequently violent offenders. Yet many in the decarceration camp have been calling for just such a mass release. The #cut50 initiative, founded by activist and CNN host Van Jones, aims to halve the prison population. Scholars at the Brennan Center have called for an immediate 40 percent reduction in the number of inmates.
Check out the eye-catching infographic, “World Incarceration Rates”. We can’t accomplish Van Jones’s 50% reduction in the prison population without releasing violent serial offenders. The idea that goal can be accomplished by not putting people in jail for drug offenses is a fiction.
As I have noted before comparisons with highly cohesive countries like Germany betrays a misunderstanding of the United States. We are better compared with Mexico or Brazil than we are Germany. We are a rougher, more violent, less law-abiding country than Germany and we have violent crime statistics to match.