Ending Mass Incarceration: Why it Persists and How to Achieve Meaningful Reform

ISBN : 9780197536575

Katherine Beckett
272 ページ
156 x 235 mm
Studies in Crime and Public Policy

Why mass incarceration endures in the face of reforms, and how to truly change America's vast criminal justice system Critics on both the left and the right increasingly use the term "mass incarceration" to call attention to the unprecedented scale and inequities of the U.S. criminal legal system, and the havoc it wreaks. But even as lawmakers begin to embrace criminal justice reform, the criminal legal response to crime is harsher than ever. In this book, Katherine Beckett explains how and why mass incarceration persists despite growing recognition of its many failures, plummeting crime rates, and widespread efforts by state legislators and others to reduce prison populations. Beckett identifies three primary forces sustaining incarceration rates in this country: political dynamics around violence, resistance to criminal legal system reform in suburban and rural counties, and the failure of popular drug policy reforms to reduce the reach of the criminal legal system. Most reform efforts to date have limited themselves in ways that are politically palatable but do little to curb key drivers of mass incarceration. Beckett then turns to the question of how we can meaningfully decrease the size of the criminal justice system when so many reforms have failed. Drawing on extensive research, she argues for political and policy shifts that would significantly reduce the scale of punishment while also addressing the underlying social problems to which those extreme penalties are a misguided response. We need to end excessive sentencing and tackle the myth of monstrosity that fuels these inhumane sentences. We need to expand restorative justice principles that offer alternative ways of promoting accountability and healing. We need to expand harm-reduction and community-based responses for less serious crimes such as drug law violations. And in a broader sense, we need to reimagine our view of public safety and understand that locking up millions of our fellow citizens does not make us safer. Rather than focusing on one key change as a miracle cure for our criminal justice system, Ending Mass Incarceration provides a cogent analysis of the dynamics working to sustain mass incarceration, the reforms that have been attempted to date, and the reforms we need to bring about truly transformative change.


Chapter 1: The Politics of Violence and the Myth of Monstrosity
Chapter 2: The Place of Punishment
Chapter 3: The Limits of Drug Policy Reform
Chapter 4: End Excessive Sentencing
Chapter 5: Violence and Victims
Chapter 6: Toward Transformative Drug Policy Reform
Chapter 7: Reimagining Public Safety


Katherine Beckett is Chair and Professor in the Department of Law, Societies, and Justice and S. Frank Miyamoto Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. She is also a faculty associate and steering committee member of the University of Washington's Center for Human Rights. Her research analyzes the causes and consequences of changes in criminal law and punishment in the United States, with a particular focus on the role of race. She is the author of Making Crime Pay: Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics and co-author of Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America and The Politics of Injustice: Crime and Punishment in America. In 2019 she received the Dorsen Presidential Prize for lifetime contributions to research on civil liberties and civil rights from the American Civil Liberties Union.