Ending Mass Incarceration
By the end of 2019, nearly 1.5 million people were in prison in the United States. That means there’s the same amount of people in U.S. prisons as there is in major cities like Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, and Dallas. And it’s significantly more than cities like San Francisco, Charlotte, Seattle, Denver, Washington DC, Boston, Detroit, and more.
Yet these statistics are even worse when you consider everyone currently detained in the U.S. criminal justice system. When state and federal prisons are considered with juvenile detention centers, jails, immigration detention facilities, Indian Country jails, military prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and others, the number rises to almost 2.3 million. Stated simply, the U.S. has a mass incarceration problem.
What makes matters even worse is that most of these people haven’t even been convicted of a crime. Some have just been arrested and will be released on bail. Others are too poor to afford bail and will sit behind bars until their trial—a wait that can last months. And, even if folks put in jail can get released, approximately one out of every four of them will go back to jail within the same year. This is often because they’re dealing with challenges that get even worse because of incarceration like poverty, mental illness or substance abuse.
Despite many people being aware of the significant amount of people sitting in prisons in the U.S., misinformation continues to plague reform efforts. Some folks believe that releasing non-violent drug offenders will end mass incarceration. Others fault things like private prisons or low-wage (or even no-wage) prison labor. Many others simply think that the vast majority of prisoners are simply too dangerous to be released.
Some of these concerns are undoubtedly valid. There are non-violent people sitting in prisons across the country. There are also fundamental flaws when it comes to private prisons and forced prison labor. And some prisoners would be dangerous if they were released. But the U.S. mass incarceration problem goes even deeper than that.
Interrogating Justice aims to help people like you understand those fundamental problems. But it also seeks to put the resources that attorneys, advocates and allies need in their hands to solve the problems, too.