1932

Abstract

Mass incarceration is an unprecedented development, one with myriad adverse consequences. Although the expansion of US penal institutions is largely a function of changes in practice and policy rather than rising crime rates, reversing this trend will nonetheless be challenging. The need for comprehensive sentencing reform is clear, but political limits on legislative remedies and the failure of the courts to notably reduce the scale, or improve conditions, of confinement render these approaches highly uncertain. In the short term, unconventional methods that do not require legislative authorization, such as electing, pressuring, and incentivizing prosecutors to reduce penal severity, may be a promising way of addressing mass incarceration. The return and revitalization of parole or other systems of post-sentence review are also crucial and may be legitimated in terms of the need to incentivize rehabilitation and prevent the unnecessary and costly incarceration of the elderly. The recent mobilization of grass-roots movements for penal change that include those directly affected by both violence and mass incarceration is also auspicious, as their work may help to humanize the justice-involved and undermine the erroneous assumption that crime survivors are well-served by mass incarceration.

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2018-01-13
2024-05-25
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