Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert take a close look at our huge prison population:
Many will seek to make our system of incarceration more “fair.” But as Naomi Murakawa argues in her new book The First Civil Right, it’s precisely this response that feeds an unjust system resources and lends it legitimacy. Many of the initial sentencing acts were meant to provide fair, predictable guidelines, but prosecutors took advantage of them instead to rapidly escalate incarcerations. Money that President Clinton earmarked for “community policing” ended up being used by police for zero-tolerance programs like “stop-and-frisk.” As a result, we incarcerate too many people, for too long, and for the wrong reasons. The necessary agenda—from stopping the “war on drugs” to rejecting carceral force as our first response to social problems—requires not investing more in the existing criminal-justice system, but simply doing less.