During a press conference on Tuesday, President Bush rejected the charge as "absurd." Amnesty has defended its use of the term. Below, a comparison of the two prison systems, with the aid of Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gulag: A History.Bosco's "test" should be faulted for its literal-mindedness that fails to appreciate the fact that a hyperbole is not an assertion of "equivalency."
Gulag: Approximately 20 million passed through the Gulag. The population at any one time was generally around two million.
Guantánamo: 750 prisoners have passed through the camp. The current population is about 520. (Bosco, 3 Jun. 2005)
Nevertheless, the gulag statistics mentioned above is useful, for it reminds us of prison statistics of the United States:
That's not counting foreigners whom Washington has detained in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere; rendered to other governments (that it regularly criticizes for human rights violations); summarily executed; or tortured to death.
- "Overall, corrections authorities incarcerated 2,212,475 prisoners at the end of 2003. . . . As of December 31, 2003, one in every 140 U.S. residents was confined in a state or federal prison or a local jail" (emphasis added, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "U.S. Prison Population Approaches 1.5 Million," 7. Nov. 2004).
- "In 2003, 6.9 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at yearend 2003 -- 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 32 adults" (emphasis added, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Corrections Statistics").
- "[A]ssuming that recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 of every 20 persons (5%) can be expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime" (emphasis added, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Lifetime Likelihood of Going to State or Federal Prison").
- "The reality is inescapable: America has become a nation of ex-cons. Thirteen million people have been convicted of a felony and spent some time locked up. That's almost 7 percent of U.S. adult residents. If all of these people were placed on an island together, that island would have a population larger than many countries, including Sweden, Bolivia, Senegal, Greece, or Somalia" (emphasis added, Tom Cochran, "Executive Director's Column" [dated 7 May 2004], U.S. Mayor Newspaper 71.9, 10 May 2004 -- see, also, Human Rights Watch, No Second Chance: People with Criminal Records Denied Access to Public Housing, 2004).
In terms of scale of incarceration, the US Prison-Industrial Complex -- even without Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, et al. -- has already surpassed the gulag in the Soviet Union.