Law and Order Legacy
Responses to Prison Overcrowding Problem
The U.S. Prison population hit a record high of 431,829 at midyear, more than double the number held behind bars just a decade ago.1 The figure was a grim reminder of what was widely thought to be a nationwide crime wave that spanned the 1970s. Lawmakers from Maine to California responded to public jitters over crime with tough new sentencing laws. Today, only two other industrial countries have more persons behind bars per 100,000 population: South Africa and the Soviet Union.2 Reformers question the need to imprison so many people. “Our prisons are overused and abused,” said Carol Bergman, director of the National Moratorium on Prison Construction.3 “Most of the people incarcerated don't need to be there.” ...