America's Mass Incarceration Crisis
America is the world's largest prison state. Our 'Mass Incarceration' series explains how we got here.
In the summer of 2019, we sat down with New York University’s Rachel Barkow, one of the preeminent criminal justice experts in the country, for an episode about an alternative-to-incarceration concept called “restorative justice.”
Barkow, a law professor and faculty directory at NYU School of Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, delivered a critically comprehensive analysis of America’s notoriously punitive criminal justice system.
Discussing criminal justice reform efforts, she cited a statistic that speaks to both the massive scale of incarceration in America and the challenges confronting reformers:
“If we continue at the same pace, with the same kinds of reforms we're seeing today, the ones that people are touting as bipartisan and great, it will take us 75 years to reduce our prison population in half,” Barkow told us.
In a way, Barkow is speaking to the enormity of the challenge facing criminal justice reformers.
We’re sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “If it bleeds, it ledes.” Well, the media culture surrounding crime reporting has long been broken, and we hoped this podcast would be an opportunity to explain to listeners the systemic problems with policing, most notably its disproportionate impact on Black Americans.
At News Beat, we’ve made it a priority to focus on the myriad aspects of the country’s massive criminal justice system, which currently imprisons more than 2.3 million Americans. That oft-cited stat doesn’t even begin to tell the full story, however.
Consider these dispiriting facts:
America’s incarceration rate is at least five times higher than in European countries.
The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but one-fifth of its prison population.
Black Americans in 2017 made up 12 percent of the U.S. adult population but 33 percent of people serving sentences in prisons.
As we enter a new season of News Beat, which also promises new shows and narratives, we thought it important to reintroduce listeners to some of our past work.
If you’re interested in learning more about criminal justice, listen or bookmark the episodes in our ‘Mass Incarceration’ series. Among the issues covered: the racist origins of the war on drugs, cash bail, state-by-state disparities in compensation for those wrongfully convicted of crimes, youth prisons, prison rape and the #MeToo movement behind bars, e-carceration, prison abolition, restorative justice, and more.
A quick note: You can listen to News Beat on all major podcast apps. We’re linking to Apple and Spotify so you can listen directly to these episodes on those apps. We’re also including a generic News Beat podcast link that’ll direct you to your preferred podcast app—simply scroll through to find a particular episode.
The True Origins Of The War On Drugs
Exonerated & Broke
Why We Riot
Money Bail: Freedom For Sale
Youth Prisons: Juvenile Detention’s Racial Disparity, Rampant Violence & Lasting Damage
The Real Voter Fraud
Law & Disorder: Progressive Prosecutors Hope to Dismantle Mass Incarceration, One County at a Time
Abused & Alone: Prison Rape in the #MeToo Era
Is Prison Abolition Possible?
E-Carceration: Are Digital Prisons The Future?
California: Epicenter of Mass Incarceration Reform (Collaboration With The Marshall Project)
Restorative Justice: Healing Instead of Incarceration
Mentally Ill and Incarcerated
Defund Police: What It Means & How It Really Works
America’s Reckoning: Is A Change Gonna Come? (Collaboration with Color Of Change)
Law & Order Vs. Reform in L.A.
Justice Severed: Plead Guilty Or Else
Barkow is also the author of the book “Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration.”
If you’re a Spotify user, we created a playlist of all our criminal justice episodes. Follow it here.
We have a comprehensive mass incarceration explainer on our main site.