There are five times as many Americans behind bars today as in 1970. The national incarceration rate in 1997 was twice that in 1985. California's prison system has become the third largest in the world. And despite some limited recent declines in crime rates, we remain by far the most violent industrial society on earth.
Though our massive investment in the prison system has not resulted in enduring public safety, politicians and the media continue to insist that America's unique problem of violence is the result of a lenient society "soft" on criminals; that incarcerating an ever-larger proportion of our population is a "social program that works;" and that all other approaches to crime--from prevention to rehabilitation--have failed. Nationally acclaimed criminologist Elliott Currie dissects these myths in a groundbreaking book that is already changing the terms of the current debate.