Incarceration in America: Barriers to Re-entry

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All this week, we’re talking about incarceration in America. On Tuesday we discussed juvenile justice and life-without-parole sentences for teenage convicts. Yesterday we talked about solitary confinement and how new research on the effects of isolation is prompting states to change their prison systems.

Today we're focusing on life after prison, and what happens to former inmates once they're released. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. incarcerated 319,598 in 1980. By 2010, that number had jumped to over 1.6 million. As the incarceration rate has increased, so have the challenges former inmates must face when they re-enter society. The exploding incarceration rate has disproportionately affected the African-American community. While African-Americans account for just under 14 percent of the U.S. population, black men make up 40 percent of the prison population. 

Joining us is Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" and law professor at Ohio State University. Also with us is Susan Burton, Founder and Executive Director of A New way of Life Re-Entry Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women break the cycle of incarceration.