In the 1980s, the United States greatly accelerated its use of prisons as part of a political commitment to prosecute a “war on drugs” and to be “tough on crime.” Government stoking of fear and of retribution paved the way to coarsening societal responses to the interpersonal conflict and personal crises that underlie violence. The result was an explosion of incarcerated persons, many with draconian sentences, and a bloated prison-industrial complex. Today, there are over 2.2 million men, women, and children in US prisons, of which some 36,000 are in North Carolina state prisons. More than 200,000 prisoners are serving life in prison, more than the entire prison population in 1972.
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