The Dangers of Pyrrhic Victories Against Mass Incarceration

Joan Petersilia and Robert Weisberg130 Daedelus 124, August 19, 2010

The term “mass incarceration” merits careful scrutiny. It is a dramatic term, spurring political and academic demands that the United States take account of, and seek to reverse, its decades-long commitment to increased imprisonment. The term is justifiably dramatic in two senses. First, the American use of incarceration is, comparatively, an international anomaly and embarrassment. Second, the magnitude of the secondary effects of incarceration in the United States has been so great as to constitute a structural change in our social, economic, and familial life.

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