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Charles Koch Institute On Mass Incarceration in the United States

a photo of a woman in probation amid mass incarceration in the United States

Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, is focusing public attention on the extremely high percentage of mass incarceration in the United States. As a matter of fact, America imprisons 700 out of every 100,000 citizens.

Vikrant Reddy poses this bold suggestion: Instead of throwing everyone in jail, why not hold them accountable by having them “supervised” by the community?

In an exclusive interview with Bold Business, captured at the Impact Prisons 2017 event, Reddy cited the alarming statistics. “The problem is extremely severe. Let me quantify it for you. Canada locks up 114 out of every 100,000 people. Australia, started as a prison colony, will accept 130 out of every 100,000. The United Kingdom locks up 150 out of every 100,000. The United States locks up 700 out of every 100,000. The difference is enormous.”

a bar graph of rates of mass incarceration in the United States and three other countries

Accountability is Possible Without Mass Incarceration

He cites public safety and human dignity as among the specific reasons why excessive imprisonment in the U.S. should be taken seriously—stressing that at a certain point, incarceration becomes counter-productive.

And then there’s the cost. Reddy explains that in Texas, locking a person up for a single day already costs $50. On the other hand, if that person were placed on probation, it would only cost the state $2.29. He notes that communities are more than capable of monitoring offenders and holding them accountable for their actions.

“People commit crimes. I don’t want to let people off. I want to make sure that they are held accountable. But that can mean probation. It can mean drug courts. It can mean specialized courts, veterans courts, prostitution courts,” Reddy said, adding that probation will allow offenders to get back on their feet more easily and eventually pay restitution to their victims.

Mass Incarceration in the United States

According to Reddy, the United States was doing well in terms of managing its prisons in the 1950s throughout the early 1960s but somehow got away from that model. “It is true that crime was increasing dramatically and politicians felt that they really needed to respond,” he said. “They responded by locking more people up. But that pendulum can swing too far. You need to find a way to reel it back in again so I would look at what we have done historically in the United States in better times,” Reddy stressed.

Perhaps the citizens have become paranoid. The instinct is to throw offenders in jail rather than give them a chance to reform within the community. It has resulted in mass incarceration. Impact Prisons 2017, Vikrant Reddy and the Charles Koch Institute are boldly challenging that practice.

Vikrant Reddy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute. Before joining Charles Koch Institute, he served as a Senior Research Analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a Research Assistant at the Cato Institute, a Law Clerk to the Hon. Gina M. Benavides of the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas. Reddy is also a member of the State Bar of Texas, an appointee to the Executive Committee of the Criminal Law Practice Group of the Federalist Society, and an appointee to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights Texas State Advisory Committee.

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