Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America

Disturbing research by the Vera Institute reveals how mass incarceration has been used to purge the US population of its most vulnerable citizens, whether or not they have committed a crime.

“The report’s encyclopedic examination of jail use—who’s in jail and the myriad paths leading there—is meant to inform. But it should also unnerve and incite us to action. As Vera’s president, I observe injustice routinely. Nonetheless even I—as this report came together—was jolted by the extent to which unconvicted people in this country are held in jail simply because they are too poor to pay what it costs to get out. I was startled by the numbers of people detained for behavior that stems primarily from mental illness, homelessness, or addiction. I was dismayed by how even a brief stay in jail can be destructive to individuals, their families, and entire communities.”

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