Beyond the Prison Bubble
For decades, America’s chief answer to crime has been to put more criminals behind bars for longer. That expensive strategy is yielding diminishing returns. It’s time for a closer look at ways of helping ex-offenders steer away from crime.
The announcement last summer that in 2009 the number of Americans behind bars had increased for the 37th year in a row provoked a fresh round of national soul-searching. With its prisons and jails now holding some 2.4 million inmates—roughly one in every 100 adults—the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any free nation. As a proportion of its population, the United States incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and 12 times more than Japan. “No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free,” The Economist has declared.
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Joan Petersilia is the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford University and codirector of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. She is the author of several books, including When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry (2003), recently reissued in paperback, and she is coeditor of the new book Crime and Public Policy.more from this author >>