The Makings of Mass Incarceration in the United States with Elizabeth Hinton
Air Dates: March 9-15, 2020
While the United States contains less than five percent of the planet’s population, it has nearly one-quarter of the world’s prison population. Elizabeth Hinton traces the politics and policy decisions since President Lyndon’s Johnson’s War on Poverty that created the nation’s reliance on mass incarceration.
Elizabeth Hinton is Professor in the Departments of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Hinton’s research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the 20th-century United States. In her award-winning book, “From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America,” Hinton examines the implementation of federal law enforcement programs beginning in the mid-1960s that made the United States home to the largest prison system in world history. It has received numerous awards, including being named to the New York Times’s 100 notable books of 2016. In 2018, Hinton co-organized the landmark conference “Beyond the Gates: The Past and Future of Prison Education at Harvard,” committed to expanding educational access for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people at Harvard and stimulating meaningful dialogue about justice and inequality.
On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” Hinton describes the punitive policies of the 1970s and 1980s that dealt with nonviolent drug crimes. Instead of utilizing a public health approach for drug abuse, Hinton says the “war on drugs” manifested itself as a war on the communities most affected by drug use, contributing to the rise in the U.S. prison population.
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