EJI Director Bryan Stevenson recently talked about ending mass incarceration on the Laura Flanders Show.
It took the United States 40 years to get from a jail and prison population of 300,000 to 2.3 million. But the prison population can be reduced significantly without risking public safety if we eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, end our misguided war on drugs, and commit ourselves to helping people recover and rehabilitate.
The U.S. spent $80 billion last year on prisons, so reducing the prison population would free up billions for new interventions to address structural poverty, racial bias, and the despair that too many children and adults experience in this country.
Once we realize that incarcerating fewer people makes us no less safe, it will be easier to imagine that we do not need to engage in harsh punitive responses to most social problems. “In my lifetime,” Stevenson said, “we could achieve a very different environment for social justice.”