The Use of Incarceration in the United States

Austin, James; Bruce, Marino; Carroll, Leo; McCall, Patricia; Richards, Stephen
April 2001
Critical Criminology;Apr2001, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p17
Academic Journal
The past two decades have produceda profound increase in imprisonment in theUnited States, resulting in a prison populationof two million and expenditures of over $35billion annually on corrections, while otherimportant government services are underfunded. Imprisonment is highest for minority maleslargely because of the War on Drugs, which hasalso dramatically increased the incarcerationof women and created nearly 1.5 millionchildren having a parent incarcerated. Inresponse to this trend, the American Society ofCriminology (ASC) directed the ASC NationalPolicy Committee (NPC) to draft a policy paperon the incarceration issue. This articleexplains the main ideas, themes, andrecommendations of the full policy paper. Itanalyzes the sources and effects of theincreased use of imprisonment, drawingattention to the negative effects of excessiveincarceration. The paper and itsrecommendations reflect a concern that the ASCneeds to set a research agenda that isindependent of the federal government andconventional wisdom. The NPC hopes this paperwill stimulate a healthy and much overduedebate on the role of the ASC in public policyin general, and the merits of widespreadincarceration in particular.


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