Political Scientist Keith Reeves '88 Discusses History and Legacy of Mass Incarceration

Keith Reeves
Associate Professor of Political Science keith Reeves '88

WHYY's Radio Times: The History and Legacy of Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

Keith Reeves '88, associate professor of political science and faculty director of the Center for Social and Policy Studies, recently spoke on the history and legacy of mass incarceration in the United States as a guest on WHYY's Radio Times.

The U.S. prison population has grown by 500 percent over the past 30 years, largely as the result of stricter drug laws and more rigid sentencing guidelines enacted in the 1970s. Studies indicate that America's overcrowded prisons are overwhelmed by costs, and the rate of incarceration may ultimately increase crime. More than two million Americans are in jail today - half for non-violent crimes.

"It's an amazingly alarming number," Reeves said, noting that most prisoners are "in prison primarily for low-level drug offenses... Some of them have dropped out of high school and have very low skill sets, and they're being returned to communities that are already under such siege." He said many low-level offenders could be sentenced in more productive ways.

Reeves, who was one of three guests on the program, has worked with incarcerated African American men for more than decade and authored Voting Hopes or Fears? White Voters, Black Candidates and Racial Politics in America. On Radio Times, he discussed the effects of incarceration on the societal landscape, including its impact on the democratic process, U.S. economy, and public safety.