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200 wordsIt is inarguable that the US has one of the highest incarceration rates when compared to rates in other countries. What’s more arguable is what accounts for this phenomenon. I’ve posted the results of a round table where the participants try to get after ‘Why is America so Punitive?”. Take a section and filter their ideas and reasons through those that you have and try to address how incarceration is related to our national perspective of social control.Paper can be found in attachment
punitiveness_in_america_report_march2016_1_.pdf

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Why is America So Punitive?
A Report on the Deliberations of
The Interdisciplinary Roundtable on
Punitiveness in America
Held at
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
April 2-3, 2015
Authors: Bettina Muenster and Jennifer Trone
March 2016
Supported By:
Acknowledgements
We would like to express our gratitude to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
which has a long history supporting research that leads to social change. In this instance, the
Foundation hoped that a cross-pollination of perspectives could unpack the phenomenon of
punitiveness in the operations of the American criminal justice system and, more importantly,
illuminate the path forward to a more humane and effective response to crime. The Roundtable thus
joins a larger portfolio of research and programmatic initiatives at MacArthur that are designed to
find ways to reduce America’s reliance on incarceration while promoting public safety and justice.
About Us
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective
institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is
placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing
social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly
increasing capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the
Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and
responsive democracy; the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago; and generating
new knowledge about critical issues.
MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations. Organizations supported by the
Foundation work in about 50 countries. In addition to Chicago, MacArthur has offices in India,
Mexico, and Nigeria.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York is an international
leader in educating for justice, offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to
upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching,
scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to
society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and
the rule of law.
John Jay is a community of motivated and intellectually committed individuals who explore justice
in its many dimensions. The College’s liberal arts curriculum equips students to pursue advanced
study and meaningful, rewarding careers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Its
professional programs introduce students to foundational and newly emerging fields and prepare
them for advancement within their chosen professions.
1
Author Bios
Bettina Muenster is the Executive Associate for Research and Special Project to President Jeremy
Travis at John Jay College. In that position she manages the President’s speeches, testimonies and
publications, functions as liaison to internal and external stakeholders, coordinates various events
and initiatives, and directs the prestigious Presidential Internship Program. In the past, she has
worked part time as Research Assistant for the Center for Court Innovation, conducted research
under the supervision of JJC Presidential Scholar, Scott Atran, and as Research Assistant for Charles
B. Strozier, Director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay. Ms. Muenster graduated from John Jay
College with a BA/MA degree in Forensic Psychology and a Masters Certificate in Terrorism
Studies in 2006.
Jennifer Trone has more than 20 years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector,
helping organizations use communications strategically to spread insights, influence and inspire
others, and garner support. Working as a consultant since 2008, her clients include nonprofit
organizations, government agencies, foundations and academic institutions. She also serves on
the Board of Directors of Skylight, a human rights media organization. Prior to working
independently, Jennifer was Communications Advisor to the first Prosecutor of the International
Criminal Court, Communications Director of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s
Prisons, and before that, a senior staff member at the Vera Institute of Justice.
2
Roundtable Participants
Vanessa Barker, Associate Professor of
Sociology at Stockholm University
Katherine Beckett, Professor in the
Department of Sociology and Law,
Societies, and Justice Program at the
University of Washington
Todd Clear, Provost at Rutgers
University-Newark
Anne-Marie Cusac, Associate Professor
of Journalism, College of Arts and
Sciences at Roosevelt University,
Chicago, and contributing writer of The
Progressive
Jonathan Jacobs, Professor of
Philosophy and Director of the Institute
of Criminal Justice Ethics at John Jay
College of Criminal Justice
Michael Jacobson, Director of the
CUNY institute for State and Local
Governance (ISLG)
Jan de Keijser, Professor of
Criminology at the Institute of Criminal
Law and Criminology and Associate
Editor of the European Journal of
Criminology
Alan Page Fiske, Psychological
Anthropologist at UCLA
Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz
Professor of Social Sciences and
Professor of Economics at Brown
University
Mark Fondacaro, Professor of
Psychology at John Jay College of
Criminal Justice
Shadd Maruna, Dean and Professor at
the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers
University-Newark
Laurie R. Garduque, Director for
Justice Reforms (U.S.) for the John D.
and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Tracey L. Meares, Walton Hale
Hamilton Professor at Yale Law School
David Garland, Professor of Sociology
and Law at New York University
Marie Gottschalk, Professor of Political
Science at the University of
Pennsylvania
David A. Green, Assistant Professor of
Sociology at John Jay College of
Criminal Justice
Maria Hartwig, Associate Professor of
Psychology at John Jay College of
Criminal Justice
Judge Morris B. Hoffman, Appointed
to the Denver District Court in December
1990
James Morone, John Hazen White
Professor of Political Science and Public
Policy at Brown University where he is
the director of their Taubman Public
Policy Program
Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman
Hubbell Professor of Law, Professor of
Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, and
the Associate Director of the Center for
Neuroscience & Society at the University
of Pennsylvania
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Visiting
Professor of History at The Graduate
Center, CUNY and the Director of the
Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture at the New York Public Library
Douglas N. Husak, Professor of
Philosophy at Rutgers University
Naomi Murakawa, Associate Professor
of African Studies at Princeton
University
Jonathan Jackson, Professor of
Research Methodology and a member of
the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at
the London School of Economics
Christian Pfeiffer, Director of the
Criminological Research Institute of
Lower Saxony
Julian Roberts, Professor of
Criminology at the Centre for
Criminology, Faculty of Law at Oxford
University and a member of the
Sentencing Council of England and
Wales
Andrew Skotnicki, Professor of
Christian Ethics at Manhattan College in
New York
Sonja Snacken, Professor of
Criminology, Penology, and Sociology
of Law at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
(Belguim)
Michael Tonry, McKnight Presidential
Professor of Criminal Law and Policy,
Director of the Institute on Crime and
Public Policy of the University of
Minnesota, and Scientific Member of
Max Planck Institute on Comparative
and International Criminal Law in
Freidburg, Germany
Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay
College of Criminal Justice
Nicholas Turner, President and Director
of the Vera Institute of Justice
Tom R. Tyler, Macklin Fleming
Professor of Law and Professor of
Psychology at Yale Law School
Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology
and Director of the Malcolm Wiener
Center for Social Policy at the Harvard
Kennedy School of Government
James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation
Professor of Comparative and Foreign
Law at Yale Law School
Cathy Spatz Widom, Distinguished
Professor in the Psychology Department
at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
and a member of the Graduate Center
faculty at the City University of New
York
Howard Zehr, widely known as “the
grandfather of restorative justice,” Codirector of the new Zehr Institute for
Restorative Justice
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Table of Contents:
Acknowledgements & About Us…..…………………………………………………………………………………1
Author Bios……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….2
Roundtable Participants …………………………………………………………………………………………………3
Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..4
Introduction by President Jeremy Travis……………………………………………………………………………..5-8
Section I – An Unprecedented Opportunity for Change……………………………………………..9-11
Section II – The Great Build Up: How Did We Get Here?………………………………………..11-14
Section III – Punishment through the Lens of History: Racism in America……………14-17
Section IV – American Exceptionalism: A Comparative Approach…………………………17-23
Section V – The Psychology of Punishment: On Blame and Responsibility……………..23-27
Section VI – The Role of Religion: Retribution versus Forgiveness………………………….27-29
Section VII – Making Policy: The Power and Limitations of Data……………………………29-33
Section VIII – Conclusion: An Emerging Movement in a Challenging Time…………..33-35
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March 2016
Dear colleagues:
In April 2015, a remarkable group of 32 national and international scholars met at John Jay College
for two days to address a complex and profound question: “Why is America so punitive”?
This question comes at a critical time in American history. A new national consensus seems to be
emerging that America should reduce its levels of incarceration, reform police practices, cut back on
the extent of criminal justice supervision, and address the alienation between the justice system and
the public, particularly communities of color. More fundamentally, there is renewed interest, from
both ends of the political spectrum, to find ways to limit the exercise of state power in the name of
crime control. At the same time, there is widespread recognition that achieving deep and lasting
reform will require a new framework for how to respond to crime, the victims of crime, and those
who violate the law – a framework that the public understands and embraces. Given this sense of
simultaneous optimism and challenge, the time seemed ripe for a discussion of American views on
punishment. The Interdisciplinary Roundtable on Punitiveness in America was created in the hopes
that a group of distinguished scholars, representing different disciplines, perspectives and countries,
could help shape this important national discussion.
The idea of convening the Roundtable arose in conversations I had with Julia Stasch and Laurie
Garduque, President and Director of Justice Reform, respectively, of the John T. and Catherin D.
MacArthur Foundation. We had collaborated on another, closely related project, the National
Academies report on the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United
States1. The project had been co-funded by MacArthur and the National Institute of Justice; I had
chaired the consensus panel that produced the report. We realized that the National Academies
report, which had carefully reviewed the research on the causes of the prison boom, had not been
able to address a fundamental question which lies behind the statutory changes, political dynamics
and economic shifts that gave rise to tough on crime policies: simply put, why is America so
punitive? We recognized that the mandate of the National Academies committee was limited to
incarceration, so the resultant report did not examine other expressions of punitiveness. Furthermore,
the topic of punitiveness does not easily lend itself to a review of the evidence that lies at the heart of
1
Jeremy Travis, Bruce Western and Steve Redburn, editors. The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington,
DC: The National Academies Press, 2014.
5
the work of a National Academies consensus panel. Finally, the assignment given the panel was to
focus on the American experience, so the panel could not systematically consider the use of
punishment and prison in other countries. This recognition of the importance of the general topic of
punitiveness, the necessity to consider comparative perspectives, and the importance of
interdisciplinary exploration led to the creation of the Roundtable with funding generously provided
by the MacArthur Foundation. At John Jay College, intellectual leadership on the scope and
composition of the Roundtable was provided by two members of the John Jay faculty, Dr. David
Green of Political Science and Dr. Maria Hartwig of Psychology. We were ably assisted by Bettina
Muenster, Executive Associate for Research and Special Projects in my office.
In many ways, the report of the National Academies provided a backdrop for the discussions of the
Roundtable. That report documented the unprecedented growth of incarceration in the United States
over the last four decades, examined the causes for that growth, and provided an extensive review of
the evidence on the consequences of this unprecedented expansion of this country’s use of prison as
a response to crime. The report presented data that have become a familiar part of the public
discourse on the state of the American criminal justice system:

Since 1970, the United States prison population has risen 700%, rendering it the world’s
leading jailer of its own citizens.2

The rate of incarceration, as a number per 100,000 residents, had increased over the same
time from 161 to 767.3

Today, the U.S. holds approximately 25% of the world’s prisoners but makes up only 5% of
the world’s population.4

Reflecting the racial disparities in incarceration rates, today one in three African-American
men has a chance of being sentenced to a prison term of at least a year in his lifetime.5

2.7 million children currently have a parent in prison, representing 3.6% of all minor
children. For African-American children, the rate is 11.4%.6

The population under community supervision has increased by approximately 280% from
1980 to 2008.7

The population in American jails has grown from 200,000 in 1973 to 2.2 million in 2009.8
In public discussions, these statistics are frequently complemented by powerful and painful
narratives of individuals currently or formerly incarcerated who have endured the harshness of jail or
prison life. These narratives include individual experiences in solitary confinement and triple-celling
2
Ibid.
Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 The Sentencing Project. (2013). Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Human Rights Committee Regarding Racial Disparities in the United
States Criminal Justice System. http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_ICCPR%20Race%20and%20Justice%20Shadow%20Report.pdf.
6
The Pew Charitable Trusts. (2010). Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility.
http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf.
7 James, N. (2011). Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism. http://www.nationalcia.org/wpcontent/uploads/Correctional-Statistics-Reintegration-into-the-Community.pdf.
8
The Growth of Incarceration in the United States (2014).
3
6
or more severe overcrowding. They describe the detrimental impact of the deprivation of
fundamental services while incarcerated, whether treatment for addiction or mental illness, access to
educational and vocational programs, or simple contact with family members. These personal stories
also describe the obstacles to reintegration upon release, including barriers to employment, housing,
and full citizenship. In these ways, and so many others, American sentencing and correctional
policies have created an environment that diminishes human dignity for those incarcerated, extends
punishment way beyond the prison walls, and places an immense burden on individuals, families,
communities and society at large.
Against this backdrop and consistent with the belief that now is the time to reevaluate the country’s
approach to punishment, Roundtable participants were asked to tackle these questions:
1. At the most basic level, what motivates individuals, cultures, and institutions to punish?
2. By what mechanisms can we explain the exceptionalism of American punitiveness? That is,
why does America differ from other Western countries in its approach to punishment?
3. Can the pattern of this “American penal exceptionalism” be altered through changes in
criminal justice and punishment policy?
4. If so, how might this be accomplished? What strategies are most likely to be effective in
influencing American penal policy?
The Roundtable hosted 32 scholars and experts at the top of their fields for a two-day session to
discuss the American propensity to resort to harsh punishment. The Roundtable meeting was quite
different from the typical academic symposium. The diversity of disciplines represented around the
table – psychology, sociology and journalism; economics and political science; history, religion and
philosophy; criminology and the law – by itself guaranteed fresh insights and creative conceptual
tensions. Furthermore, the inclusion of several European scholars provided a resourceful
counterpoint to American perspectives. Finally, the topic – understanding punitiveness in America in
relation to the reality of mass incarceration – represented a departure from traditional scholarly
inquiries.
To launch the conversation and provide useful thematic context, seven papers were commissioned
and shared with the group ahead of the meeting. Authors briefly presented their papers at the
Roundtable, setting the stage for a lengthy interdisciplinary discussion that I facilitated. Papers were
presented in the following order:
1. Bruce Western, Harvard University, “Recent Trends in Punitive Criminal Justice in the
United States.”
2. James Q. Whitman, Yale Law School, “Presumption of Innocence or Presumption of
Mercy?: Weighing Two Western Modes of Justice.”
3. Mark R. Fondacaro and Megan J. O’Toole, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Graduate
Center, “Psychological Perspectives on Punishment: Retributive and Consequentialist
Responses to Crime.”
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4. Jonathan Jacobs, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, “Punitiveness: A Philosophical
Perspective.”
5. Andrew Skotnicki, Manhattan College, “Theological Approaches to Wrongdoing,
Punishment, and Forgiveness.”
6. Hannah Walker and Naomi Murakawa, University of Washington and Princeton University,
“Political and Policy Perspectives on Punishment: No Exit? The Limits of Carceral State
Retrenchment.”
7. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “The Long Arm of the Past: Historical and Racial Perspectives on
American Punitiveness.”
This report is intended to represent a distillation of some of the key insights and critical exchanges
from a very rich two-day discussion. It has been prepared by Bettina Muenster, who served as
administrative coordinator of the Roundtable, and Jennifer Trone, an experienced writer on criminal
just …
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