The rise of mass incarceration in the United States is one of the most critical outcomes of the last half-century. Peter Enns, associate professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University and executive director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, offers a compelling explanation of this issue and helps us understand the forces that led the United States to becoming the world's leader in incarceration.
In a Fall 2016 Chats in the Stacks book talk sponsored by Olin Library, Enns presents his new book, 'Incarceration Nation: How the United States Became the Most Punitive Democracy in the World' (Cambridge University Press, March 2016). He combines in-depth analysis of Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon's presidential campaigns with sixty years of data analysis, and he reveals how politicians responded to an increasingly punitive public by pushing policy in a more punitive direction. He argues that media coverage of rising crime rates helped fuel the public’s "tough on crime" outlook that led to a rapid rise in incarceration. Today's less punitive views have resulted in bipartisan calls for criminal justice reform, and his research provides important new insights that will help shape future policies.