The causes of mass incarceration, a term used to describe rapid the growth of the United States’ imprisoned population from the early 1970’s until the present day, has been a topic of great debate in recent times. The National Research Council reports that the United States’ penal population of approximately 2.2 million adults, at a rate of 716 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, is the largest in the world. This is an astounding increase from the early 1970s, where the rate of imprisonment excluding jails was approximately 110 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Detailed research analyses by the National Research Council, of the events between the early 1970s to the present day, make it clear that social and political ideas and movements, including changes in policy making, tough on crime stance, the War on drugs, the influx of immigrants during that time and the racial and economic biases, are key contributors to why the Unites States holds 25% of the world 's prisoners yet its population only accounts for 5%of the world 's population.
THE END OF INTERMEDIATE SENTENCING
The growth of the penal system, and the increases in the numbers of individuals incarcerated were initially intended. From the 1930s till the early 1970s, the U.S had an intermediate sentencing system which did not give a specific prison term, merely a range. Judges were able to decide the range of punishment, thus leading to a lack of standards for appellate judges to review appealed sentences. This was soon deemed an ineffective way of sentencing and during the 1980s and 1990s, and resulted in a series of reform efforts. These efforts would later lead to state and federal legislators passing laws aimed at ensuring that more individuals ...
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...tional Research Council, President Nixon officially declared the war on drugs in 1971, calling it “public enemy number one” during a news conference. This was after he initially advocated for rehabilitation and public health as a means of combating substance abuse. He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. The Reagan administration built on top of Nixon’s foundation and escalated the war on drugs by enacting tougher federal drug laws, which resulted in an even greater increase in the rates of imprisonment for drug use and possession. The U.S department of Justice, Bureau of justice statistics reported that individuals convicted of drug offenses grew to make up about one fifth of all state prison inmates and nearly two thirds of all federal inmates.
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