Fordham Law professor John F. Pfaff’s Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform (Basic Books, 2017) has been selected by The Marshall Project for inclusion in its “Picks of 2017.” The prestigious list honors the 10 best books in the field of criminal justice, according to the nonprofit news organization.
Locked In reevaluates the conventional thinking surrounding the causes of mass incarceration in the United States, namely that the War on Drugs, draconian sentencing laws, and the private prison industry caused the explosion of prison populations. Pfaff argues that the causes stem far beyond these three factors. The overlooked key factor in Pfaff’s estimation are prosecutors, who, in the mid-1990s, began administering felony charges twice as often as they had before. Pfaff also examines how counties do not pay for the people they send to state prisons, and how white suburbs establish law agendas for more-heavily minority cities. Agreeing that racial inequality drives the country’s criminal justice system, Pfaff’s work prompts readers to consider how to rebuild the system and establish a more just society.