In this revised edition of his seminal book on race, class, and the criminal justice system, Marc Mauer, executive director of one of the United States' leading criminal justice reform organizations, offers the most up-to-date look available at three decades of prison expansion in America.
Including newly written material on recent developments under the Bush administration and updated statistics, graphs, and charts throughout, the book tells the tragic story of runaway growth in the number of prisons and jails and the overreliance on imprisonment to stem problems of economic and social development. Called "sober and nuanced" by Publishers Weekly, Race to Incarcerate documents the enormous financial and human toll of the "get tough" movement, and argues for more humane—and productive—alternatives.
In recent years, Mauer, the assistant director of the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., has raised one of the few voices in the media decrying the explosive increase in the U.S. prison population, and especially the high percentages of incarcerated young black men. In this sober, nuanced analysis, he assesses how we have come to lock up offenders "at a rate 6 to 10 times that of most comparable countries"--a rate that represents a 500% increase since 1972. Meanwhile, "about the best that can be said is that crime rates in some categories are no worse than they were when only one sixth as many inmates filled the nation's prisons." The major culprits for the expanded rolls, he contends, are mandatory sentencing statues and the "war on drugs" that began in the early '80s. Yet the evidence is too murky to prove that increased incarceration leads to a lowered crime rate, Mauer argues. With some crimes, notably drug peddling, offenders are often "replaced" on the streets, since "a thriving market exists with the potential for lucrative profits." His policy solutions--jobs, education--might be dismissed as "hopelessly liberal," he acknowledges, but they're what work for the middle class; while they may not fully address the complexities of the underclass, there is evidence that they help. He also argues for increased drug treatment. Pointing out some potent unintended consequences of overcrowded prisons, Mauer cites displaced criminal justice resources, significant African-American disenfranchisement and family disruption (including increased sexual bargaining power for unimprisoned black men, and thus more illegitimacy).