The Role Of County Prosecutors In Mass Incarceration


John Pfaff‘s book on mass incarceration, Locked In, was reviewed for The Christian Century.

According to Pfaff’s detailed data analysis, public-sector actors at the local level—unions representing corrections officers, legislators in districts where prisons are located, and elected judges and prosecutors who need to avoid appearances of leniency to stay in office—are the main power players in advocating tough-on-crime agendas. In light of the power of public-sector actors and the relatively few number of people in private prisons, Pfaff concludes that the focus on prison privatization is often a distraction.

[P]faff also indicates the need to think beyond criminal justice reform. He suggests the need to address the lack of upward mobility available to young men in racially segregated neighborhoods; to advocate for solutions outside criminal justice tactics, such as investment in schools or strengthening public health systems; and to tackle the impact defacto racial segregation has on county-level politics.


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