How To End Mass Incarceration In America

It’s time to face the facts: America’s prisons are a national disgrace. We have more people incarcerated than any other country on earth, and the numbers continue to rise. This is not only a moral issue but also an economic one. The cost of mass incarceration is staggering, and it is crippling our economy.

There must be a better way. This article will explore solutions to ending mass incarceration in America. We will look at the work being done by organizations like The Sentencing Project and The Innocence Project, and we will learn what we can do to help them make progress. Let’s get started!

Costs Of Mass Incarceration

The Vera Institute of Justice released a report in 2016 that found the cost of incarceration in the United States was over $80 billion per year. That figure includes spending by federal, state, and local governments on corrections and the foregone economic opportunities of those incarcerated.

Incarceration rates in the United States have been rising for several decades, reaching a peak in 2008. Since then, there has been a slight decline, but the overall trend is still one of growth.

The Vera Institute of Justice report found that the cost of incarcerating an individual in 2016 was $31,286 per year.

The report also found that the cost of building and operating prisons was $80 billion per year, with $39 billion spent on corrections at the state level and $20 billion spent by the federal government.

Local governments also incur costs associated with incarceration, such as housing inmates in local jails.

When these costs are included, the total cost of incarceration in the United States reaches $80 billion per year.

The Vera Institute of Justice report is just one of many that have documented the high cost of incarceration in the United States.

A 2013 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that state and federal spending on corrections had grown by more than $50 billion since 1980, even after adjusting for inflation.

And a report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that, between 1987 and 2007, the cost of building and operating prisons in the United States grew by nearly $30 billion.

The high cost of incarceration is not just a financial burden on taxpayers; it also takes a toll on those incarcerated and their families. Incarceration can result in job loss, reduced earnings, and decreased access to health care and other services.

And because people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, the high cost of incarceration can exacerbate existing racial and economic disparities.

Alternatives To Incarceration

Suppose the United States is to reduce its incarcerated population and associated costs. In that case, it will need to invest in alternatives to incarceration that are proven to be effective at reducing crime.

These alternatives include drug treatment, job training, and educational programs. Investing in these alternatives can save taxpayers money and improve public safety.

How To End Mass Incarceration

The first step in ending mass incarceration is to change the way we think about crime and punishment. Our justice system has been driven by fear and retribution rather than rehabilitation and restoration for too long.

We need to start seeing prisoners as human beings who deserve a second chance, not as animals to be caged. This shift in mindset will be essential to making progress on this issue.

There are several ways to abolish mass incarceration in America.

We need to end mass incarceration in America because it is morally wrong, and it does not work. It is ethically wrong because it disproportionately affects poor people and people of color, and it does not work because it does not make our communities safer.

Related: Unjust Laws Examples

Organizations Against Mass Incarceration

Organizations like The Sentencing Project are working hard to end mass incarceration, but they need our help. We can get involved by donating to their cause or volunteering our time and talents.

Some other organizations against mass incarceration are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Amnesty International.

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in the fight against mass incarceration. Some people choose to work within the criminal justice system to effect change from the inside, while others work with grassroots organizations to raise awareness and push for policy reform.

Still, others donate their time or money to support the work of these groups.

One way to get involved is to support organizations working to end mass incarceration. The ACLU, NAACP, and Amnesty International are great places to start. You can also look for local groups in your area that are working on this issue.

Spread Awareness

You can also get involved in the fight against mass incarceration by raising awareness. You can talk to your friends and family about what is happening and why it is wrong.

You can write letters to the editor or op-eds for your local newspaper. You can also use social media to spread the word about the issue.

No matter what you do, you can make a difference in the fight against mass incarceration. Every little bit helps, and together we can make sure that this issue is given the attention it deserves.


It’s time to end mass incarceration in America. We can no longer afford to keep warehousing human beings in prisons. It’s time for a new approach, one that is driven by compassion and restorative justice. With the help of organizations like The Sentencing Project, we can make this a reality. Let’s do this, people.

Originally published at on June 5, 2022.



Avid reader and activist

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store