The Public Interest

Ex-convicts in society

Eli Lehrer

Fall 2003

IN the late 1970s, the United States embarked on a prison- .  system buildup of a scale previously unknown in a free society. By 2002, nearly :2 million American men and women were serving sentences in local, state, and federal correctional facilities. The country’s incarceration rate rose from slightly over 100 individuals per 100,000 in 1980 to nearly 500 in 2002. Coincident with the prison buildup, crime rates fell by half---household victimization even more steeply—and the United States went from being the most dangerous large Western democracy to the safest. 

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