June 2006 Vol. 104 No. 7 THE REVIEW

Correspondence: The Political Market for Criminal Justice

Rachel E. Barkow

In 2004, the number of individuals incarcerated in the United States exceeded the two million mark. The current incarceration rate in the United States is 726 per 100,000 residents, the highest incarceration rate in the Western world and a dramatic increase from just three decades ago. Not only are more people serving time, but sentences have markedly lengthened.

What should we make of these trends? The answer has been easy for most legal scholars: to them, the incarceration rate in the United States is too high, and reforms are necessary to lower sentences. But many political leaders and voters reach the opposite conclusion: current sentencing levels are just right or, in some cases, not tough enough.

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