The incarceration rate in the United States more than quadrupled between 1970 and 2008—to a rate five to 10 times higher than that of countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. At the peak of mass incarceration, 2.3 million people were in jails and prisons in this country.
Decades of research and experience show that we cannot incarcerate our way to a safer, fairer, more just society and that mass incarceration has disproportionately impacted Black people, people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty. There is growing consensus that we cannot continue with the “tough-on-crime” status quo. Recent reforms include unprecedented investments in community violence intervention and civilian crisis response, ending money bail in states like Illinois, and zeroing out incarceration for girls and gender expansive youth in many jurisdictions.
The movement to end mass incarceration is winning. Today, there are 25 percent fewer people in prison than when incarceration was at its peak in 2009, 39 percent fewer Black people in prison since its peak in 2002, and a greater demand from the public for accountability from police, prosecutors, and government leaders.