It’s a system that has forged the world’s largest prison system, one that author and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander has labeled the “new Jim Crow.”
And it’s a system that has resulted in a dramatic rise in the U.S. incarceration rate – the number of prisoners per-capita – that the National Academy of Sciences has concluded is unprecedented in world history.
In the past four decades, following a half century of stability, the portion of the U.S. population in prison or jail has more than quadrupled. This expansion began immediately after the civil rights movement in response to a “law and order” movement and was further propelled by the nation’s failed war on drugs.
It is system marred by vast racial disparities – one that unfairly punishes communities of color, burdens taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost.