As James Kilgore reveals in a recent article in Counterpunch, “The Persistence of Mass Incarceration,” despite growing optimism over the past four years that mass incarceration was on the decline, the 2013 Bureau of Justice annual statistics report revealed that incarceration numbers (for state and federal prisons combined) have in fact risen for the first time since 2009–a rise of about .3%. Importantly, the report details that the number of people in federal facilities actually declined for the first time since 1980 with 1,900 fewer prisoners in 2013 than in 2012; however, the increase of 6,300 individuals (0.5%) incarcerated in state facilities contributed to the overall rise. In Massachusetts specifically, the number of men imprisoned also fell from 2012 to 2013, while the number of women imprisoned remained consistent.
Kilgore’s article touches on the reality that although discourse has shifted around mass incarceration, policy changes have not followed suit. He writes that various changes have been proposed, some aligned with mainstream reform (drug sentencing reform), others more radical (addressing structural racism, poverty, and capitalism). Nevertheless, as Kilgore concludes, “One certain outcome of this statistical shift will be heightened debate amongst those involved in efforts to roll back the US prison system.”