The human stories behind mass incarceration | Eve Abrams | Summary and Q&A

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The human stories behind mass incarceration | Eve Abrams


This content explores the flaws and injustices within the United States' criminal legal system, particularly focusing on the disproportionate incarceration rates, the unreliability of eyewitness testimonies, and the impact on families and communities.

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Key Insights

  • 👀 The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with Louisiana having the highest in the country. Many innocent people are locked up, either due to unreliable eyewitness testimony or corruption within the criminal justice system.
  • ⚖️ Estimates suggest that between one and four percent of incarcerated individuals are innocent, which amounts to around 87,000 people. Additionally, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are presumed innocent but cannot afford bail, leaving them in jail for prolonged periods.
  • 👶 African American children are disproportionately affected by parental incarceration. By the age of 14, one in four black children will see their father go to prison, compared to one in 30 for white children.
  • 💌 Letters become a lifeline for many incarcerated individuals and their families due to the high cost of phone calls. These letters provide a source of emotional support and connection.
  • ♀️ The criminal legal system disproportionately targets people of color, resulting in a high representation of black individuals in courtrooms and prisons.
  • 📚 It is important for young people, particularly those from marginalized communities, to be educated about the criminal justice system and their rights within it.
  • 🏛️ The responsibility to address mass incarceration falls on society as a whole. It is crucial for individuals to understand their connection to the issue and advocate for change within their communities.
  • 💔 The criminal legal system is flawed, with a lack of adequate resources for investigations, an imbalance of power between prosecutors and public defenders, and a system that prioritizes conviction over justice. Change must come from within, and citizens need to hold elected officials accountable for their actions and decisions within the system.


I have never been arrested, never spent a night in jail, never had a loved one thrown into the back of a squad car or behind bars, or be at the mercy of a scary, confusing system that at best sees them with indifference, and at worst as monstrous. The United States of America locks up more people than any other nation on the planet, and Louisiana i... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does the United States have the highest incarceration rate in the world?

The United States locks up more people than any other nation on the planet due to a combination of factors such as harsh legislation, fear of being labeled "soft on crime" by politicians, and a police culture that prioritizes swift retribution over thorough investigations.

Q: How reliable is eyewitness testimony in criminal cases?

Eyewitness testimony, which has historically been considered a strong form of evidence, is now known to be unreliable. Decades of research have shown that memory is not precise, and DNA testing has proven that over 70 percent of overturned convictions were based on eyewitness testimony.

Q: How many innocent people are currently incarcerated in the United States?

Estimates of the number of innocent people locked up in the United States range between one and four percent. This amounts to approximately 87,000 individuals who have been wrongly convicted and are serving time for crimes they did not commit.

Q: How does incarceration impact families, particularly children?

Incarceration has a devastating impact on families, especially children. Over five million children in America will witness a parent's incarceration at some point in their childhoods, with African American children being disproportionately affected. Maintaining ties with incarcerated parents is crucial for children's future success, but expensive phone calls and the inability to afford bail further exacerbate the strain on families.

Q: What can be done to address the injustices within the criminal legal system?

It is the responsibility of all citizens to question and address the injustices within the criminal legal system. This includes educating ourselves and our communities, advocating for fairer legislation, electing officials who prioritize criminal justice reform, and ensuring adequate resources and funding for public defenders to provide proper defense. In essence, it is up to us, as a society, to bring about change and pursue true justice.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate within the US.

  • Eyewitness testimony is not as reliable as previously believed and has led to many wrongful convictions.

  • Over 87,000 innocent individuals are currently in prison, and many more are unable to afford bail and remain in jail waiting for trial.

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