Academy of Justice – Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
Reforming Criminal Justice is a four-volume report meant to enlighten reform efforts in the United States with the research and analysis of leading academics. Broken down into individual chapters—each authored by a top scholar in the relevant field—the report covers dozens of topics within the areas of criminalization, policing, pretrial and trial processes, punishment, incarceration, and release.
The Changing Politics of Crime and the Future of Mass Incarceration
By David Cole*
For too many years, it seemed that the only possible stance a politician could take on crime was to be tougher than his opponent. For almost two generations beginning in the mid-1970s, state and federal legislators enacted increasingly harsh criminal penalties—mandatory minimums, “three-strikesand-you’re-out” life sentences, parole elimination, and the like. Police pursued “broken windows” or “zero tolerance” strategies, leading to greatly increased arrests. Prosecutors charged defendants as aggressively as possible. And legislators deprived judges of the discretion to sentence based on individualized considerations, mandating specific sentences with no room for leniency. The result was an unprecedented boom in the nation’s population behind bars. Our per capita incarceration rate not only soon parted ways with those of our European allies, but outstripped every nation in the world, as the United States became the world leader in incarceration.1