Unlike prisons, jails exist in nearly every county in America and are under local control. Designed to only hold people for a short time and when absolutely necessary, jails have become massive warehouses — particularly for those too poor or sick to disentangle themselves from the justice system.
Ending mass incarceration demands a shift in resources and attention. We need to confront what is happening in all of our backyards and understanding each community’s local incarceration story. Policymakers and the public have to take stock of how many of their neighbors are behind bars and why — and ask difficult questions about whether wasting so much human potential and taxpayer money makes us any safer.