Can We Be Optimistic with Millions Behind Bars?

The Way Americans Talk About Prisons Has Shifted. The Nation’s Policies Have Yet to Catch Up.


Should we be optimistic about the criminal justice and prison systems in America? This was the question Tim Golden, The Marshall Project’s managing editor for investigations and news, posed to open a Zócalo/California Endowment panel he was moderating. Golden prefaced the question by sharing some news with a standing-room-only crowd at the Endowment’s downtown L.A. headquarters: This year, the number of Americans in prison increased after three straight years of decline. Has the country truly turned a corner after three decades of rising incarceration rates?

Prophet Walker, who helped create a …

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