Part 1: Bibliographic Entry:
Wagner, Peter, and Wendy Sawyer. “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020.” Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020 Prison Policy Initiative, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html.
Part 2: Terminology/Keywords:
Systems of confinement
Criminal justice system
Federal PIECP program
Probation and parole
Part 3: Précis:
The article aims to bring clarity to the incarceration process and refute common misconceptions. It starts off with a big picture, illustrating how many people are currently in jail. The authors, then, list myths along with facts that prove why they’re wrong. First, releasing nonviolent drug offenders would end the whole problem of mass incarceration. This is untrue mainly because 4 out of 5 people in jail are locked up for other reasons. The next myth is that mass incarceration is mainly caused by corruption in private prisons. However, private companies only control 9% of jails. Next, prisons provide companies with lots of free labor. However, less than 1% of prisoners are employed by private companies through the federal PIECP program. The fourth myth is that people locked up for violent or sexual crimes are too dangerous to let out back into the world. However, recidivism data suggests that these people are actually among the least likely to commit another violent or sexual offense crime again. Lastly, that more community supervision is the best way to lower incarceration rates, as they provide a more lenient option to jail. However, they are usually so strict that they set people up for failure. In fact, these small technical violations present with community supervision are the main reason for the incarceration of people on probation and parole. The authors, then, note the price people pay for committing low-level crimes.
Part 4: Reflection:
I think the authors bring really interesting points into question with data to back up their claims. I agree with the notion that society tends to focus on a few “key” problems, even if they’re not the real reason why a system is failing. This is generally because people don’t have facts in mind when constructing their opinions. These authors do a good job at shifting the blame away from “big corporations,” even though they are an easy scapegoat. They effectively prove that private companies only make up a small percentage of the incarceration enterprise. I also liked how the authors noted that just because a person has committed a crime in their past doesn’t mean they are forever a bad person. People are able to reform and become better people. I’m curious what every individual can do to solve the many problems of mass incarceration because it seems like such a daunting problem to fix. To better understand this article, I had to google some words, like recidivism, to understand the data that was brought.
Part 5: Quotables:
“As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture”.
“The overcriminalization of drug use, the use of private prisons, and low-paid or unpaid prison labor are among the most contentious issues in criminal justice today because they inspire moral outrage. But they do not answer the question of why most people are incarcerated”
“Nevertheless, 4 out of 5 people in prison or jail are locked up for something other than a drug offense — either a more serious offense or an even less serious one”
“In fact, less than 9% of all incarcerated people are held in private prisons”
“Only about 5,000 people in prison — less than 1% — are employed by private companies through the federal PIECP program”
“Recidivism data do not support the belief that people who commit violent crimes ought to be locked away for decades for the sake of public safety”
“More incarceration is not what most victims of crime want”
“Probation, in particular, leads to unnecessary incarceration”
“Rather than investing in community-driven safety initiatives, cities and counties are still pouring vast amounts of public resources into the processing and punishment of these minor offenses”