Responsible prison reform

Between 1979 and mid-2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the number of Americans behind bars rose from roughly 314,000 to about 2 million. Today, the United States has roughly 5% of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its inmates. Evidence shows mass incarceration has performed more or less as advertised. But policies that were appropriate for a nation that had one of the highest crime rates among developed Western countries are not necessarily appropriate for a nation that now has one of the lowest.

Conservatives should lead the way in sensibly shrinking the prison population. An increased emphasis on individual responsibility holds promise for a new conservative agenda for prison reform. Combined with a renewed emphasis on effective punishment, increased attention to circumstances within jailhouse walls, and a different social attitude toward ex-offenders, these sound, time-tested principles can shape the new vision for prison reform that America urgently needs.

Featured Publications