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Downsizing Prisons

How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration

Michael Jacobson

Publication Year: 2005

Over two million people are incarcerated in America’s prisons and jails, eight times as many since 1975. Mandatory minimum sentencing, parole agencies intent on sending people back to prison, three-strike laws, for-profit prisons, and other changes in the legal system have contributed to this spectacular rise of the general prison population.

After overseeing the largest city jail system in the country, Michael Jacobson knows first-hand the inner workings of the corrections system. In Downsizing Prisons, he convincingly argues that mass incarceration will not, as many have claimed, reduce crime nor create more public safety. Simply put, throwing away the key is not the answer.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book grew out of my years working in a number of government positions in New York City, as well as the last several years doing research and teaching at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In many ways, my experience as a Ph.D. student at the Graduate Center of the City of New ...

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pp. 1-7

ON MARCH 15, 1995, while I was the Commissioner of Probation for the City of New York, I was appointed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also to run the New York City Department of Correction—the largest city jail system in the United States. Indeed, for the next year and a half, I ran both the city’s Probation and Correction Departments. Afterward, ...

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Introduction: Bloated Prisons

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pp. 8-17

THERE IS ONLY one way onto Rikers Island. It is a long bridge that connects the borough of Queens to the largest penal colony in the world. Most of the almost 110,000 people who make the trip over the East River to Rikers over the course of a year will spend an average of six weeks there before they are released back to their communities. ...

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1. Mass Incarceration

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pp. 18-41

IN 1993, DURING a slumber party, 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her home in Petaluma, California, and killed by a sex offender on parole named Richard Davis. The viciousness of the crime, the purity and innocence of the victim, and the psychotic unremorseful persona of Davis—who claimed at his sentencing hearing that Polly ...

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2. Unintended Consequences

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pp. 42-77

WHEN RAY KRONE was released from an Arizona prison in April 2002 (after DNA evidence proved he was not responsible for the 1991 murder of a Phoenix bartender), he became the one hundredth person exonerated and released from death row since 1973. All told, as of December 2003, 112 prisoners were found innocent and released from death ...

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3. A New Reality for Prison Systems

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pp. 78-105

THE BEGINNING OF the twenty-first century was not kind to states. After the boom years of the 1990s, state economies rapidly deteriorated as, by 2001, a national recession became apparent. Compounded by the attacks on September 11 and the financial aftermath of increased unemployment and reduced travel, as well as by large stock market drops in ...

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4. Why Prison Growth Does Not Substantially Reduce Crime

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pp. 106-130

PERHAPS NO OTHER city in the world has received the kind of attention showered over the last decade on New York City after its recent and highly publicized reductions in crime. Law makers, policy makers, and journalists from other states and nations have visited in large numbers to investigate how New York City accomplished this reduction. ...

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5. Why Parole and Probation Policies Need to Change

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pp. 131-172

ALMOST EVERYONE WHO goes to prison comes out of prison. In fact, except for the 5% who are sentenced to life without parole, executed, or die of natural causes, 95% of all prison admissions are released, and 80% are released to parole or some kind of after-prison supervision.1 Yet the parole system is one of the most misunderstood ...

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6. Success Stories and Works in Progress

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pp. 173-214

ON THE SURFACE , California, Connecticut, and Louisiana could not be more dissimilar. Each state’s political landscape is different. Their sizes range from small to middle to huge, both in population and acreage; from the West to the South to the Northeast, not only regional but cultural diversities become apparent. Despite this variety, all three ...

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7. Downsizing Prisons

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pp. 215-224

ON AUGUST 11, 2003, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the attorneys gathered for the American Bar Association’s 2003 annual conference, “Our [prison] resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too loaded.” He then added, “I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum ...


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pp. 225-256


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pp. 257-274


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pp. 275-291

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814743805
E-ISBN-10: 0814743803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814742747
Print-ISBN-10: 0814742742

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 76834557
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Downsizing Prisons

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Subject Headings

  • Criminals -- Rehabilitation -- United States.
  • Probation -- United States.
  • Parole -- United States.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment -- United States.
  • Prisons -- United States.
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