July 2020

We all know that the United States imprisons many more people per capita than otherfree countries. But why? Progressives, conservatives, and libertarians all have their favored theories, but this month’s lead authors, Chris W. Surprenant and Jason Brennan, argue that none of them captures the whole story. Here to discuss with them this month are Clark Neily, the Cato Institute’s Vice President for Criminal Justice; and John Malcolm, the Heritage Foundation’s Vice President for the Institute for Constitutional Government and Director of the Meese Center for Legal & Judicial Studies. The conversation will continue through the end of the month, and comments on posts are open to readers during the same time period.

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Lead Essay

  • Chris W. Surprenant and Jason Brennan argue that the U.S. criminal justice system grew to the size that it is owing to the incentives faced by prosecutors, judges, police, and federal, state, and local legislators. Each had a solid but narrow reason to act the role that they did in recent decades, yet taken together, their actions produced a system that locks up more people than any other nominally free country. As incentives created the problem, Surprenant and Brennan recommend a set of policies that will align incentives toward de-incarceration.

Coming Up

Essays by Clark Neily¬†and John Malcolm; conversation through the end of the month.