Mass Incarceration

  • May 14, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Nicole Fortier, counsel, Brennan Center for Justice

    It’s well known today that the United States is the biggest incarcerator in the world. With five percent of the world’s population, we house nearly a quarter of its prisoners. That’s over two million Americans behind bars. The number of people we imprison has increased over 400 percent since 1980. But in that time the federal prison population grew over 700 percent. Today, it has 208,609 inmates housed within its walls – more than any individual state.  The country now spends $80 billion per year on state and federal corrections.

    This dramatic growth was no accident. It was the direct result of laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s by policymakers hoping to combat rising crime rates. Their solution: over-criminalize and over-punish behavior – particularly at the national level. They expanded federal criminal laws, increased penalties, removed sentencing discretion from judges, and encouraged states to do the same.

    It’s clear that together, these laws cast too wide of a net. But it is important to dig further to understand whom they caught in that net. Exploring the demographics of those in federal prison can help us understand the real consequences of these policy decisions.

  • May 12, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Geoffrey R. Stone considers in The Huffington Post what the Supreme Court will look like in 2025.

    In The New YorkerJeffrey Toobin looks at an experiment in Milwaukee aimed at reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

    At Bloomberg View, Noah Feldman explores the recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that one of the NSA’s surveillance programs is unlawful.

    Robert J. Smith and Charles J. Ogletree Jr. discuss at The Washington Post the latest death penalty challenge before the Supreme Court.

    Kenneth Jost writes at Jost on Justice that “religious liberty has become the last refuge of those who oppose marriage for gay and lesbian couples.”

    Audie Cornish and Linda Blumberg examine at NPR how a Supreme Court ruling against the Affordable Care Act would hurt low and middle income workers the most.

  • May 11, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    At Jacobin, Alex Elkins investigates the origins of racist policing practices such as stop-and-frisk in urban America.

    Andrew Cohen writes at The Marshall Project that a new project shows that cost of holding elderly prisoners is incredibly high. 

    Thom Hartmann takes a look at how the privatization of prisons contributed to mass incarceration at Salon

    At Vox​, Ezra Klein ​considers how the United States is failing to support mothers on a variety of issues.

    Peter Beinhart argues in The Atlantic ​that reporters should hold major political donors to the same level scrutiny as the candidates. 

  • February 26, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Matt Ford considers at The Atlantic whether a new bipartisan coalition can help end mass incarceration.

    Elizabeth Warren argues in The Washington Post against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries.”

    In the ABA Journal, Erwin Chemerinsky writes about King v. Burwell, arguing that the “case is about life and death in determining whether millions of people will still have health insurance and access to health care.”

    Brianne Gorod explains at the blog for the Constitutional Accountability Center that the government’s loss in Yates v. United States on Wednesday may signal good news for the future King v. Burwell decision.

    Jamelle Bouie of Slate discusses new efforts to restrict voting in various states and why the United States needs a constitutional right-to-vote amendment.

  • February 13, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    A new study from the Brennan Center for Justice examines the causes of the dramatic decline in crime nationwide in the last two decades. The study argues that harsh criminal justice polices and increased incarceration did not drive the decline.

    David S. Cohen argues at Salon that although marriage equality is likely to win at the Supreme Court, the decision is still unpredictable.

    Cristian Farias offers a critique of Chief Justice John Roberts at Slate, asserting that his life experiences limit his reasoning on Fourth Amendment cases.

    At Bloomberg Business, Greg Stohr writes that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still leading the push for women’s equality. 

    Zoe Carpenter of The Nation considers the FBI Director’s recent comments on policing, race, and police violence.