National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
×

The Growth of
INCARCERATION
in the United States

Exploring Causes and Consequences

Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration

Jeremy Travis, Bruce Western, and Steve Redburn, Editors

Committee on Law and Justice

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                          OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.

www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS    500 Fifth Street, NW    Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by Award No. 11-99472-000-USP from the MacArthur Foundation and Award No. 201I-DJ-BX-2029 from the U.S. Department of Justice. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The growth of incarceration in the United States : exploring causes and consequences / Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration, Jeremy Travis and Bruce Western, editors, Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. National Research Council of the National Academies.
         pages cm
   Includes bibliographical references.
   ISBN 978-0-309-29801-8 (pbk.) — ISBN 0-309-29801-6 (pbk.) 1.
Imprisonment—United States. 2. Prisoners—United States—Social conditions.
3. Criminal justice, Administration of—United States. I. Travis, Jeremy.
II. Western, Bruce, 1964- III. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Law and Justice.
  HV9471.G76 2014
  365’.973—dc23
                                                         2014007860

Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2014). The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration, J. Travis, B. Western, and S. Redburn, Editors. Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
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COMMITTEE ON CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF HIGH RATES OF INCARCERATION

JEREMY TRAVIS (Chair), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

BRUCE WESTERN (Vice Chair), Department of Sociology and Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

JEFFREY A. BEARD, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation*

ROBERT D. CRUTCHFIELD, Department of Sociology, University of Washington

TONY FABELO, Justice Center, Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY

MARIE GOTTSCHALK, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

CRAIG W. HANEY, Department of Psychology and Program in Legal Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

RICARDO H. HINOJOSA, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas

GLENN C. LOURY, Department of Economics, Brown University

SARA S. MCLANAHAN, Department of Sociology, Princeton University

LAWRENCE M. MEAD, Department of Politics, New York University

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York City Public Library

DANIEL S. NAGIN, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University

DEVAH PAGER, Department of Sociology and Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

ANNE MORRISON PIEHL, Department of Economics and Program in Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

JOSIAH D. RICH, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, Brown University, and Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, The Miriam Hospital, Providence, RI

ROBERT J. SAMPSON, Department of Sociology, Harvard University

HEATHER ANN THOMPSON, Department of African American Studies and Department of History, Temple University

MICHAEL TONRY, School of Law, University of Minnesota

AVELARDO VALDEZ, School of Social Work, University of Southern California

STEVE REDBURN, Study Director

MALAY MAJMUNDAR, Senior Program Officer

JULIE ANNE SCHUCK, Senior Program Associate

BARBARA BOYD, Administrative Coordinator

_________________

*Resigned fall 2013.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
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COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE 2013-2014

JEREMY TRAVIS (Chair), John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York

RUTH D. PETERSON (Vice Chair), Department of Sociology, Ohio State University

CARL C. BELL, Community Mental Health Council, Inc.

JOHN J. DONOHUE, III, Stanford Law School, Stanford University

MINDY FULLILOVE, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

MARK A.R. KLEIMAN, Department of Public Policy, University of California, Los Angeles

GARY LAFREE, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park

JANET L. LAURITSEN, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri

GLENN LOURY, Department of Economics, Brown University

JAMES P. LYNCH, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park

CHARLES F. MANSKI, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

DANIEL S. NAGIN, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University

ANNE MORRISON PIEHL, Department of Economics and Program in Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

DANIEL B. PRIETO, Cybersecurity and Technology, U.S. Department of Defense

SUSAN B. SORENSON, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

DAVID WEISBURD, Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy, George Mason University

CATHY SPATZ WIDOM, Psychology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

PAUL K. WORMELI, Integrated Justice Information Systems, Ashburn, VA

ARLENE LEE, Director

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Preface

The growth of incarceration rates in the United States for more than four decades has spawned commentary and a growing body of scientific knowledge about its causes and the consequences for those imprisoned, their families and communities, and U.S. society. Recognizing the importance of summarizing what is known (and not known) about the many questions this phenomenon has raised, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) of the U.S. Department of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation requested a study by the National Research Council (NRC). We are grateful for support throughout the study from the current and former NIJ directors, John Laub and Greg Ridgeway, and from our program officers at the MacArthur Foundation, Laurie Garduque and Craig Wacker. This report is the product of that 2-year effort, conducted by an ad hoc committee created by the National Research Council to assess the evidence and draw out its implications for public policy. I and the other members of the study committee hope it will inform an extensive and thoughtful public debate about and reconsideration of the policies that led to the current situation.

Special thanks are owed to the late James Q. Wilson who chaired the Committee on Law and Justice (CLAJ) at the time the study was conceived more than 5 years ago. Recognizing the importance of this issue, he organized a subcommittee of Phil Cook, Duke University; Glenn Loury, Brown University; Tracey Meares, Yale Law School; and myself to develop a study idea for CLAJ’s approval. At a meeting held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in January 2009, led by former CLAJ director Carol Petrie, a group of scholars helped develop parameters for a study of high rates of

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
×

 

incarceration. NIJ and the MacArthur Foundation subsequently recognized that such a study would come at an important moment in the nation’s history and could make a significant contribution to public understanding and to improving the justice system.

On the committee’s behalf, I thank the many individuals and organizations who assisted us in our work and without whom this study could not have been completed. Several scholars conducted original analyses and working papers for the committee. Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon University, and Alan Beck, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, updated their classic analysis of changes in incarceration levels. Other contributors included Doris MacKenzie, Penn State University; Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri, St. Louis; Susan Turner, University of California, Irvine; Sara Wakefield, University of California, Irvine; and Christopher Wildeman, Yale University, who provided detailed analyses on various topics of interest to the committee ranging from crime rates to prison programs to research needed to address knowledge gaps identified in the report. Bettina Muenster, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was a valuable consultant to the committee, most especially in her reviews of several important parts of the literature. Peter Reuter, University of Maryland, College Park, and Jonathan Caulkins, Carnegie Mellon University, provided insights from their work on drug crime. Eric Cadora and Charles Swartz of the Justice Mapping Center, Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, provided community maps of incarceration. Steven Raphael, University of California, Berkeley, and Michael Stoll, University of California, Los Angeles, generously shared advanced text of their now-published book on why so many people are in prison. In addition, a number of colleagues reviewed the research literature and prepared data for specific chapters: Scott Allen, University of California, Riverside; Anthony Bator, Harvard University; Dora Dumont, Miriam Hospital, Providence, RI; Wade Jacobsen, Princeton University; Becky Pettit, University of Washington; Jessica Simes, Harvard University; Catherine Sirois, Harvard University; and Bryan Sykes, University of Washington.

Sixteen individuals participated in a December 2012 public workshop on health and incarceration, organized by committee member Josiah Rich, which informed that element of the committee’s work. Other participants were committee members Craig Haney, Bruce Western, and Scott Allen, University of California, Riverside; Redonna Chandler, National Institute on Drug Abuse; Jennifer Clarke, Brown University Medical Center; Jamie Fellner, Human Rights Watch; Robert B. Greifinger, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY; Newton Kendig, Federal Bureau of Prisons; Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project; Fred Osher, Council of State Governments; Steven Rosenberg, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services; Faye S. Taxman, George Mason University; Emily Wang, Yale University;

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
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Christopher Wildeman, Yale University; and Brie Williams, University of California, San Francisco. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided support for the preparation and publication of a summary of that workshop (available through the National Academies Press, http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18372).

All of us recognize that the study would not be what it is—in the depth of analysis, quality of writing, or force of its conclusions—without the efforts of the committee’s vice chair, Bruce Western. I thank him not only for his innumerable substantive contributions to the report, but also for his thoughtful leadership at critical times during the committee’s deliberations.

One member of the study committee, Jeffrey Beard, resigned in late 2013. He concluded that his obligations as secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a position he assumed after having been appointed to the committee, precluded him from participating in the final stages of the committee’s deliberations. We are indebted to him for his contributions to the committee’s early work.

Committee member Ricardo H. Hinojosa has written a supplementary statement, which is Appendix A. In it he expresses concerns about the report’s discussion and certain conclusions related to the causes of high rates of incarceration and their effect on crime prevention, based on his judicial experience. However, he does support the panel’s recommendations and the importance of their consideration by the public and policy makers.

This study and report have benefited from the valuable assistance of many NRC staff within CLAJ. Steve Redburn, scholar and study director, oversaw meeting agendas and schedules for the production of this report. In the assembly of the report, he was assisted by Malay Majmundar, senior program officer, and Julie Schuck, senior program associate, to work collaboratively with the committee members to integrate their ideas, analyses, writings, and conclusions into a sound report. Barbara Boyd, administrative coordinator, made sure the committee’s study and meetings ran smoothly, gathered data and created several figures in this report, as well as provided bibliographic assistance. The former CLAJ director, Jane Ross, offered wise guidance at the start of the committee’s deliberations. The current CLAJ director, Arlene Lee, provided leadership and intellectual rigor in the final phases of production of this report to ensure that its complex messages were well-grounded. Conversations with Robert Hauser, executive director, and Mary Ellen O’Connell, deputy executive director, of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education helped the committee strengthen the presentation of its conclusions and the articulation of normative principles for the use of incarceration.

We also thank the many other NRC staff members who assisted the committee in its work. Anthony Mann provided administrative support as needed. Kirsten Sampson Snyder shepherded the report through the NRC

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18613.
×

 

review process; Eugenia Grohman helped edit the draft report; Yvonne Wise processed the report through final production; and Patty Morison offered guidance on communication of the study results. The staff of the NRC library and research center, Daniel Bearss, Colleen Willis, Ellen Kimmel, and Rebecca Morgan, provided valuable assistance on the report bibliography. We also appreciate the efforts of Rona Briere and Alisa Decatur in their editing of the final text.

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

I thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Anthony A. Braga, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, and School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University; Shawn Bushway, Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, State University of New York; Michael Flamm, Department of History, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio; Michael Gottfredson, University of Oregon; Peter Greenwood, Advancing EBP, Agoura, California; Martin F. Horn, John Jay College, City University of New York, and New York State Sentencing Commission; Randall L. Kennedy, School of Law, Harvard University; Kenneth C. Land, Department of Sociology, Duke University; Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project, Washington, DC; Theda Skocpol, Scholars Strategy Network and Department of Government and Sociology, Harvard University; Cassia Spohn, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University; Christopher Uggen, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota; Lester N. Wright, School of Population Health, University of Adelaide, and School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia; Mark H. Moore, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; and Sara Rosenbaum, Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University.

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions and recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Mark Moore, Harvard University, and Sara Rosenbaum, George Washington University. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent

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examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report, however, rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

More than 5 years ago, CLAJ recognized that the time had come to marshal the best science and gain insight into how incarceration had reached exceptional levels and with what consequences. To that end, we on the study committee committed ourselves to reaching the consensus presented in this report through open-hearted deliberation and collaborative spirit. Our work will be judged a contribution to the extent that it informs a robust public discourse on these matters with scientific evidence and thoughtful reflection on the purposes and proper limits of incarceration.

Jeremy Travis, Chair
Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States

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After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world's prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly 1 out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is 5 to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies. The U.S. prison population is largely drawn from the most disadvantaged part of the nation's population: mostly men under age 40, disproportionately minority, and poorly educated. Prisoners often carry additional deficits of drug and alcohol addictions, mental and physical illnesses, and lack of work preparation or experience. The growth of incarceration in the United States during four decades has prompted numerous critiques and a growing body of scientific knowledge about what prompted the rise and what its consequences have been for the people imprisoned, their families and communities, and for U.S. society.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States examines research and analysis of the dramatic rise of incarceration rates and its affects. This study makes the case that the United States has gone far past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits and has reached a level where these high rates of incarceration themselves constitute a source of injustice and social harm.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States recommends changes in sentencing policy, prison policy, and social policy to reduce the nation's reliance on incarceration. The report also identifies important research questions that must be answered to provide a firmer basis for policy. The study assesses the evidence and its implications for public policy to inform an extensive and thoughtful public debate about and reconsideration of policies.

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