1932

Abstract

This article examines the origins of US mass incarceration. Although it is clear that changes in policy and practice are the proximate drivers of the prison boom, researchers continue to explore—and disagree about—why crime control policy and practice changed in ways that fueled the growth of incarceration in all 50 states. One well-known account emphasizes the centrality of racial and electoral politics. This article more fully explicates the racial politics perspective, describes several friendly amendments to it, and explores a range of arguments that challenge it in more fundamental ways. In the end, we maintain that although mass incarceration has many drivers, it cannot be explained without reference to the centrality of racial politics; the importance of the crime issue to the GOP electoral strategy that emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement; and the nature of the decentralized, two-party electoral system in the United States.

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2020-10-13
2024-06-25
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