Watch This: Causes and Consequences of the Growth of Incarceration in the United States

After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. A recent report from the National Research Council, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, examines what’s behind this dramatic rise of incarceration.

The study reviews decades of research on incarceration and finds that the United States has gone far past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits. It finds that these high incarceration rates have themselves become a source of injustice and social harm. This short video summarizes the study and what we can do to improve criminal justice policies.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “Watch This: Causes and Consequences of the Growth of Incarceration in the United States

  1. When Ferguson happened, the feds called in the usual suspects to explain and recommend regarding policing and its reform. Very predictably, those experts produced a document that could have been written in the 1990s. Actually, WAS written in the 1990s. Now, once again, regarding overincarceration, we get yet another report from truly concerned but conventional wisdom-locked experts saying what was said 20-25 years ago, just with updated stats. Documenting our problems isn’t unworthy, but ignoring the work done by law school “outsiders” such as Bibas, Stuntz, Pfaff, and Bell on the overuse and “professionalization” of prosecutorial discretion and of counties charging their inflated senses of justice on the state credit card with every verdict rendered just shows that they not only have nothing new to say but are sucking the attention and air away from those who do. We won’t solve the problems they have yet again detailed without confronting the major elephants outlined well by the authors above. Cherry-picking low-hanging fruit as they recommend and as processes such as Justice Reinvestment make wonderful livings for the consultants pushing them always do without addressing the actual drivers of those prison population increases just means that 20-25 years from now, we’ll be reading this report again. And again.

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