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'Excessive Punishment' Essays Critique Mass Incarceration

"Excessive Punishment: How the Justice System Creates Mass Incarceration" was published Tuesday by the Columbia University Press. Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law solicited 38 essays from criminal justice scholars, practitioners, and advocates, as well as former law enforcement officers and prisoners. “The noise and disinformation about crime is hitting its usual election-year peak. This book cuts through all that,” says Eisen. “It shows that public safety, justice, and fairness are compatible goals that must be achieved together if they are to be achieved at all. The current dominant method— the blend of mass incarceration and perpetual punishment – has failed on all three counts: public safety, justice, and fairness.”


Contributors include Paul Butler, Jennifer Chacon, Khalil Cumberbatch, Alexes Harris, Michael Mendoza, Nkechi Taifa and Bruce Western. They explore the unfinished work of the criminal justice reform movement. Why does so much of the criminal justice system remain locked on overincarceration? How do factors like structural racism and economic incentives work against commonsense reforms? The U.S. has by far the world’s largest population of incarcerated people. More than a million Americans are imprisoned; hundreds of thousands more are held in jails. The Brennan Center says, "This vast system has doled out punishment—particularly to people from marginalized groups—on an unfathomable scale. At the same time, it has manifestly failed to secure public safety, instead perpetuating inequalities and recidivism. Why does the United States see punishment as the main response to social harm, and what are the alternatives?"

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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