David Weiman on Mass Incarceration
Bill Resnick talks with economist David Weiman about the political forces encouraging the growth and maintaining of prisons and punitive policing in the USA. They consider not only media influence and legislators desire to keep jobs in their areas but also the fear-enhancing effects of social isolation and division and the correlation between inequality and incarceration. They discuss the impact of widely available guns and lobbying in support of gun rights. They consider the role of mental health professionals, the use of psychoactive drugs, and the likelihood that mental illness is a consequence of incarceration rather than a cause of crime. Weiman provides a brief history of the relation between drug laws and mass incarceration: although NY's Rockefeller drug laws became a model for Nixon's war on drugs, they did not initially increase incarceration rates because the NY police and legal system declined to implement them punitively until Ed Koch came to political prominence. The interview touches on the connection between drug crime and lack of economic alternatives in good jobs.