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What's Happened To America's 'Crackdown On Crime?'

Publication Date: 
August 12, 2013
KCRW - To The Point
Warren Olney

Professor Joan Petersilia participated in a KCRW conversation hosted by Warren Olney about the controversy surrounding America's overstuffed prisons.

America's over-stuffed prisons are too expensive, discriminatory against racial minorities and counter-productive. So say reformers across the political spectrum in New York, Texas and Washington, DC. But hard-liners claim that crime is down because more criminals are behind bars. Also, New York City is ordered to change its stop and frisk policing, and last year's election and the future of presidential politics.


After 30 years of being "tough on crime," the US -- with 5% of the world's population -- has 25% of its prisoners, and that's very expensive. Now the crime rate is way down. Conservatives are joining liberals, demanding reduced sentences and alternatives to incarceration. Texas is one of the states where prisons are being shut down. But hard-liners warn that so-called "smart sentencing" will push the crime rate back up again. Eric Holder told the American Bar Association today that America's 30-year crackdown has produced unintended consequences, and called for reform. The Attorney General has support from some unexpected sources, including Grover Norquist, one of the most influential conservatives in Washington. We update the controversy.


Marc Levin: Right on Crime, @TPPF
Scott Burns: National District Attorneys Association
Adam Gelb: Pew Center on the States, @pewstates
Peniel Joseph: Tufts University , @PenielJoseph
Joan Petersilia: Stanford Criminal Justice Center