The Prisoners’ Dilemma

The size of America’s prison system, unparalleled worldwide, has become a political priority on the left and right. For both sides, the War on Drugs, harsh sentencing laws, and the private prison industry are key culprits responsible for America’s spiking incarceration rate. The unanimity behind this causal story has led to the conclusion that all that stands in the way of reducing incarceration is the question of when to get started.
In Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration, John Pfaff takes these causes—what he calls the “standard story”—to task. Pfaff, a professor of law at Fordham University and a scholar of economics and law, presents a compelling account of mass incarceration, backed by robust statistics, to argue that current reforms are merely low-hanging fruit and will fail to bring about any meaningful reduction in the incarcerated population. Rather, to address the 2.3 million American prison inhabitants, reform efforts must

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