Incarceration and Inequality

Oklahoma: The highest per capita incarceration rate in the world

Explosion in the prison population

Racism and incarceration: Worse than South Africa at the height of Apartheid

Mental health and incarceration

Private Prisons are NOT the problem

The Path Forward

  • End mandatory minimum sentences — Mandatory minimum sentences require those convicted to spend a set number of years in prison based on the crime before they are released or granted parole. As a result, the unique situation of a criminal — whether that person was a low-level accomplice or the kingpin of the crime — are not taken into consideration. Judge discretion is also given much less weight with mandatory minimums. Rhode Island achieved a 59% decrease in new court admissions for drug crimes by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for all drug crimes and changing possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil infraction.
  • Send fewer people to jail for drug offenses — 1 in 5 people is in jail for a drug offense. We need to first stop sending people to jail, particularly for low-level drug offenses. And second, we need to reduce the amount of time spent in jail if we do incarcerate people for these offenses. Estimates suggest that cutting lengths of stay 50% for drug trafficking offenses would reduce the federal prison population 18% over the next 8 years.
  • Improve bail reform efforts — 470,000 people are in jail right now who have not even been convicted of a crime. This means nearly half a million people are in jail who may have done nothing wrong. The pre-trial detention rate has increased 470% over the last 4 decades. The average cost of paying bail for a felony is $10,000-$12,000, and half of all the people who can’t post bail are parents. Defendants are 9x more likely to plead guilty to a misdemeanor if they can’t afford bail. We need to make bail more affordable by calculating bail based on a person’s ability to repay and using the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) to determine when costs are warranted and when bail can be fully removed.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jeremy Ney

Jeremy Ney

Google, MIT, Harvard, UPenn, Federal Reserve, now writing about inequality at