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July 30, 2013

"Prisons are shrinking. That won’t necessarily last."

The title of this post is the headline of this recent notable essay by Mike Konczal posted on-line via the Washington Post. Here is how it starts:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics on Thursday released its count of the number of prisoners in the country. There are 1,571,013 individuals under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities. However, that number represents a decline, having fallen 1.7 percent since last year — the third consecutive annual drop and the largest of the three. This multi-year falling trend is also true if you consider everyone in the correctional system, or the nearly 7 million people you get when you include local jails, probation and parole. This is after decades of rapidly expanding prisoner populations in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s leading provider of private, for-profit prisons, had a happy announcement in a recent PowerPoint presentation: State budgets will soon be no longer in crisis. One must imagine that CCA shareholders who are U.S. residents were excited that school budgets would no longer be slashed, public services more broadly would no longer be cut, and the dangerous state-level austerity holding back the economy would no longer be an issue. But the real excitement was over the idea that states could finally start arresting people again, thus filling the depleted ranks of the incarcerated.

Liberals debate the longer-term consequences of the past five years all the time. Is the financial sector well-regulated again? Did we roll back the expansive executive authority of the War on Terror, or solidify it? Did we invest enough in infrastructure when interest rates were at all-time lows? But a major question is still open for debate: Did collapse of state budgets during the Great Recession put us on a permanent path to rolling back the United States’ high levels of incarceration?

July 30, 2013 at 01:45 PM | Permalink


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A completely one-sided piece. If the "authorities" he cites (and the ones he refrains from citing) aren't enough to show this, his bio will: "Mike Konczal is a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, where he works on financial reform, unemployment, inequality, and a progressive vision of the economy. His blog, Rortybomb, was named one of the 25 Best Financial Blogs by Time Magazine. His writing has appeared in the Boston Review, The American Prospect, the Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Dissent, and he's appeared on PBS NewsHour, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, CNN, Marketplace, and more."

Oh, OK, he writes for American Prospect, the Nation, and Slate, and has appeared with Rachel Maddow.

Question: How much credibility would most of the people commenting on this blog give something written a fellow who worked for the Reagan Institute, whose writing had appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, National Review and Human Events, and who was a guest on Sean Hannity?


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 30, 2013 2:02:44 PM

"Did collapse of state budgets during the Great Recession put us on a permanent path to rolling back the United States’ high levels of incarceration? "

Not if we allow 36 million new immigrants into the country....

Posted by: YES | Jul 30, 2013 3:38:06 PM

I had heard of this essay from a colleague and I have to say reading it myself raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Posted by: Joan A | Jul 30, 2013 8:02:10 PM

Mr. Yes,
I presume you mean that 36 million immigrants would swell state coffers so much that there'd be fewer budget problems. Otherwise, one might think you're a racist.

Posted by: matt | Jul 31, 2013 5:51:46 PM

Hahaha, Otis, the Reagan Institute. Is that a thing? What do they study, how to govern with Alzheimer's?

Posted by: HGD | Jul 31, 2013 6:31:24 PM

HGD --

That's most gracious of you.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 1, 2013 7:57:54 PM

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