The unintended consequences of being “tough on crime”

ideas.ted.com

“We’re in this exciting moment where we’ve had 40 years of being ‘tough on crime,’ and we’ve finally come to recognize that it really hasn’t worked very well,” says sociologist Alice Goffman bluntly. “Scientists have shown in the past few years that the relationship between incarceration and crime is basically zip. The crime rate goes up and down, incarceration just continues to grow. It’s not a good way of fighting crime.”

When it comes to talking about jail, Goffman, a teeny tiny wisp of a woman with wide eyes and an open smile, does not mince her words. Sitting forward on a sofa in the Vancouver Convention Center, the day before she is due to give a TED Talk on the problem of using incarceration as a one-size-fits-all solution to crime, she is hopped up at what she sees as the injustice of it all. And she has seen it…

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