No “Big-Picture Blueprint” Seen To End Mass Incarceration In U.S.


It will take new bipartisan cooperation to undo mass incarceration in the U.S., William Kelly, a University of Texas-Austin criminologist, tells Alternet’s David J. Krajicek, and Kelly doesn’t see the political will. “There's no big-picture blueprint for where this needs to go to really reduce the prison population,” he says. “So far it's all piecemeal.” The prison population buildup had bipartisan roots dating from the 1980s and ’90s, as Democrats and Republicans vied to use crime as a political issue. There was bipartisan fervor for crime policy “reform” that could be condensed into a campaign-ad bromide: lock 'em up and throw away the key. “The two parties started trying to out-tough each other,” says Kelly. “Once it became bipartisan, there was no slowing it down.”

Countless mandatory minimum laws were passed with little debate. “I think there was more dissent in the Soviet Union's Supreme Soviet under Brezhnev when laws were debated,” says Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News. Mass incarceration continues even though politicians on the right and left now say they oppose it. “No one will come out and say that they support mass incarceration, yet it thrives on its own,” Wright says. “That's one sign of its success.”

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