Mass Incarceration in the United States

In the last four decades, the rate of incarceration in the United States has more than quadrupled.[1] The U.S. now incarcerates more people than any country in the world. The impact of this situation is devastating for families of prisoners, the prisoners themselves, and their communities. When people are incarcerated who could live safe and productive lives in their communities, everyone is hurt – on both sides of the prison walls.

Momentum is building, however, for ending mass incarceration. One powerful catalyst has been Michelle Alexander’s powerful book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Reading this book in faith communities and book groups, people across the U.S.  have become concerned about the disproportionate imprisonment of people of color.  We see pathways to change: to prevent unnecessary incarceration; to end inhumane conditions of confinement, including extended solitary confinement; to help returning citizens lead productive lives; and to educate our communities to support positive change.

[1] National Research Council (2014). The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.