Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stolz Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University, has been appointed to a National Academy of Sciences committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration.
There were 2.3 million Americans incarcerated in prisons and jails in the United States in 2011. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. And Blacks make up a vastly disproportionate percentage of prison inmates. Nearly 10 percent of Black men ages 30 to 34 were in prison in 2011 compared to 1.6 percent of White men in the age group.
Professor Loury, who is the coauthor of the 2008 book, Race, Incarceration, and American Values, states, “We’re using prisons and coercion as a way of substituting for the failures of other institutions in our society — the schools, the fact that we’ve got large concentrations of minorities in the center of the city, and the fact that we’re waging a war or drugs that is really a reflection of deep problems in the society and not necessarily of the young men who are involved in the drug trade, who are really foot soldiers in a larger structure.”
The NAS committee is studying the situation and is scheduled to issue a report in November 2013 that will make recommendations of how to deal with the problem. Professor Loury hopes that the “authority of the National Academy of Sciences can be brought to bear in a credible way to urge changes in policy, such as shorter sentences and nonpunitive ways of dealing with some of our social problems.”