This has been to go-to term for those wishing to pretty much abolish the use of prisons and transfer criminals to community programs where their criminality—considered arising from evil social conditions or poor family life—can be addressed by loving social workers.
Fortunately, the public largely understands this is a recipe for increasing harm to the public and will continue to support legislation and legislators who possess a sound understanding that criminals need to be isolated away from continuing to harm the public and if that calls for more imprisonment, it is a far better solution than more crime.
However, the never-say-die New York Times editorial board stands by mass incarceration.
For more than a decade, researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. If there is any remaining disagreement about the destructiveness of this experiment, it mirrors the so-called debate over climate change.
In both cases, overwhelming evidence shows a crisis that threatens society as a whole. In both cases, those who study the problem have called for immediate correction.
Several recent reports provide some of the most comprehensive and compelling proof yet that the United States “has gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits,” and that mass incarceration itself is “a source of injustice.”
That is the central conclusion of a two-year, 444-page study prepared by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the Justice Department and others. The report highlights many well-known statistics: Since the early 1970s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million, making it the world’s biggest. That is five to 10 times the incarceration rate in other democracies.
On closer inspection the numbers only get worse. More than half of state prisoners are serving time for nonviolent crimes, and one of every nine, or about 159,000 people, are serving life sentences — nearly a third of them without the possibility of parole.
Retrieved May 25, 2014 from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/opinion/sunday/end-mass-incarceration-now.html?ref=opinion