Mass Incarceration

Video Resources

  • From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime Professor Elizabeth Hinton talked about her book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, in which she traces the rise of incarceration in America. (2016, 1 hour)

  • Alexandra Natapoff: Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal Professor Natapoff documents dark truths about the misdemeanor process—how it forces the innocent to plead guilty, how it disregards basic legal rights, and how it inflicts deep injustice… exposes how race and poverty intersect within the misdemeanor system to punish the innocent. (2019, 1 hour)

  • Learning from Europe? Prisons, Punishment, and American Exceptionalism How, to what extent, and why has criminal justice become so much harsher in the U.S. than in similar countries? Based on a comparison of France, Germany, and the U.K., this talk seeks to show just how much the U.S. has changed over the past four decades. (2016, 1 hour, 7 minutes)

  • Mass Incarceration, Visualized (2015, 2½ minutes)

  • The Nordic: Nordic Prisons (excerpt): Retired Superintendent of Attica Correctional Facility in New York, visits four Nordic prisons and facilities. What methods are used in the correctional facilities of the Nordic countries? How do they differ compared to the US? (2014, 7 minute excerpt)

  • We Are Witnesses: The American criminal justice system consists of 2.2 million people behind bars, plus tens of millions of family members, corrections and police officers, parolees, victims of crime, judges, prosecutors and defenders. In We Are Witnesses, we hear their stories. The project comprises 19 videos, each between two and six minutes long.

  • Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data-driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost-effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But many of these so-called reforms actually widen the net of surveillance. (2020, 9 minutes)

  • We need to talk about an injustice | Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, and a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. (2012, 24 minutes)

  • Bryan Stevenson "We can't recover from this history until we deal with it." (2019, 6 minutes)

  • True Justice: This HBO documentary follows Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative’s struggle to create greater fairness in the criminal justice system. (2019, 1 hour, 40 minutes)

  • The Future of Race in America: Michelle Alexander, a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — the bestselling book that helped to transform the national debate on racial and criminal justice in the United States. (2013, 23 minutes)

  • Justice for Black Lives: Reforming the Criminal Legal System. Panelists include: Patrice James, Director of Community Justice, Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Anntionetta Rountree, Community Member; Jennifer Soble, Executive Director, Illinois Prison Project; Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons. (2020, 1 hour)

The Criminalization of Poverty

  • How Jails Extort the Poor: Why do we jail people for being poor? Today, half a million Americans are in jail only because they can't afford to post bail, and still more are locked up because they can't pay their debt to the court, sometimes for things as minor as unpaid parking tickets. (2016, 12 minutes)

  • For-Profit Probation Companies Exploit Poorest Americans Human Rights Watch The cost of private probation supervision disproportionately harms the poor, often criminalizing a person’s inability to pay their probation fees and court costs. When an individual cannot afford payments, they can face arrest, extended probation, or even prison. The incarceration of people who do not pay fines and fees because they are genuinely unable to pay was outlawed in 1983 by the US Supreme Court, yet it remains a reality. (2018, 3½ minutes)

  • Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which looks at public housing and poverty in America through the prism of eight families from the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee. (2016, 2½ minutes)

  • Matthew Desmond at First Year Experience Conference “EVICTION IS TO WOMEN WHAT INCARCERATION IS TO MEN.” (2017, 15 minutes)

  • Richard Rothstein: "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" The book recovers a forgotten history of how federal, state, and local policy explicitly segregated metropolitan areas nationwide, creating racially homogenous neighborhoods in patterns that violate the Constitution and require remediation. (2019, 49 minutes)

The Power of Prosecutors

  • Emily Bazelon on ‘Charged’ and the Push to End Mass Incarceration Close to 2.2 million people were incarcerated in the U.S. in 2016; author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, Emily Bazelon says prosecutors — not judges — are responsible for many of the prison sentences defendants receive. (2019, 13 minutes)

  • Guess Who's the Most Powerful Person In The Justice System What few people realize is that prosecuting attorneys play a leading role in shaping the criminal system— and that voters in their communities elect them to the job. As the most powerful decision-maker in our criminal system, prosecutors have the ability to curb mass incarceration. Prosecutors exercise tremendous control over who enters the criminal system, how each case will be resolved, and whether incarceration will be a part of that resolution. (2017, 2 minutes)

  • Prosecutors: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver John Oliver explains how prosecutors use, or in some cases misuse, their power within our criminal justice system. (2018, 19 minutes)

  • John Pfaff on Rethinking the Causes of Mass Incarceration Since 2010, the number of people locked up in U.S. prisons has fallen by nearly 100,000. Although a welcome change after decades of sustained and unceasing growth, this decline in incarceration is surprisingly limited given the bipartisan support for reforms. This talk examines some of deep-seated challenges that reform efforts face and how to possibly confront them. (2018, 10 minutes)

  • The Power of the Prosecutor: A Reason Discussion Lauren Krisai, John Pfaff, and Ken White discuss the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, how prosecutors have served as barriers to meaningful criminal justice reform, and whether an influx of forward-looking district attorneys could change the status quo. (2017, 51 minutes)

Mental Illness & Incarceration

  • The Criminal Justice System Has a Mental Health Crisis | NowThis CRIMINALIZING MENTAL ILLNESS: ‘No one’s mental health is helped by being in the jail’ — Throwing people with mental health issues in jail and prison is a national crisis, according to these public defenders. (2020, 10 minutes)

  • Mental Illness in America's Prisons | Fault Lines As the healthcare debate rages in the US, the fate of the hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people in jails and prisons in the US has been absent from the agenda. (2009, 22 minutes)

  • Inmates with Mental Illness Tell Their Stories | AVID Jail Project The AVID Jail Project hopes that the images and stories we share will bring attention to the crisis of mental health in our criminal justice system and will humanize an issue that is all too easily ignored. (2015, 8 minutes)

  • Book Launch: Waiting for an Echo by Christine Montross, MD. Dr. Christine Montross reads from her book "Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of American Incarceration" and discusses mental health in prisons. (2020, 1 hour, 12 minutes)

Restorative Justice

Audio Resources

Restorative Justice

Organizations with a Focus on Mass Incarceration