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Full Transcript of Episode 5 - Police in America (Part 2): Cascading Racism in The Criminal Justice

Updated: Aug 6


Kamran: Hi. Welcome back to "Let's Talk About Race", the podcast where we look at race issues in America and try to have real conversations with differing perspectives. Today, I'm joined by Dr. Nazgol Ghandnoosh, senior research analyst at The Sentencing Project. Thanks much for joining us.


Nazgol: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me. Kamran.

Kamran: Of course. Before we get started, you have a very academic perspective to a lot of racial bias and differing ways in which the criminal justice system is formed in America. Can you give us a little background on your education and your work experience to date?

Nazgol: Sure. So I went to graduate school at UCLA and I did a PhD in sociology there. And it took me a while to figure out what exactly I would focus on. But in the end, what I did my dissertation on was people that were serving parole eligible life sentences.

Nazgol: And then in 2013 is when I finished that degree, And I started working at the Sentencing Project where I'm where I'm at now. And as part of my role as a researcher there, I focus on issues like racial disparities and incarceration throughout the criminal justice system. I look at reforms because I really like to be able to showcase where things are being done right so that police departments, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges can look to what the positive steps that their peers are taking around the country to address over incarceration and racial disparities. So those are some of the areas that I've been focusing on.

Kamran: And as far as a quick primer on The Sentencing Project itself, what do they do?

Nazgol: Sure. We're a DC based nonprofit. We've been around for over 30 years and we engage in research and advocacy on criminal justice reform. So we connect directly with lawmakers. We connect directly with advocates and support the work that they're doing and help to connect that world to the broader public, in particular by connecting with reporters and media so that everyone's aware of what the latest research is in terms of what needs to be happening in the criminal justice system.

Kamran: Obviously, there have been nationwide protests since the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, a lot of other black Americans. And one of the things that is being chanted, that's being said a lot, is that "police are racist". And so I'm curious for you, from an academic perspective, is there an answer to that question? Are police racist? Is the police system racist?

Nazgol: Sure. Well, I would say that the short answer to that question...is yes. And it depends on how you define racism.

Nazgol: So some people think of racism as being overt. And these would be sort of the police officers that we hear about that are members of secret white supremacist groups. And there are definitely in the past year or so, there's been some news coverage of that. And that's extremely troubling that there are people like that in the police force and those are the most obvious bad apples to get rid of.

Nazgol: But there's also a broader definition of racism that you can think of which which would look at structural problems in policing and in the gaps in our society that we require policing to fill in. So, for example, problems of homelessness that disproportionately affect people of color. Why is it that we send police out to address that issue? Problems of substance use disorder. Why is it that we're not thinking more seriously about a public health approach there, but also for violent crime as well. Why don't we have more of a public health approach? Why is it that we're relying on this rather ineffective and really harsh and punitive response to the gaps in our society that contribute to the presence of violent crime?

Nazgol: And then I would say the other aspect of racism and racial bias that occurs in policing is something that happens in every sector of our society. The research is very clear about implicit bias. That even if you are a person who says, 'I'm really progressive person and I support racial equality, there is no way that I would want to ever do anything that supports discrimination against people of color'. If you look closely at your own work, you're likely to produce biased outcomes in your work, despite the fact that you explicitly support racial equality. This is true with people who work in medicine, with, for example, healthcare workers. This is true with people who work in education. So teachers and it's also true with our police officers and people who work in criminal justice.

Nazgol: We are as a function of living in the society that we live in...We have biases that we carry and that pertains to the criminal justice system. Assumptions about who is a criminal. Who is likely to reoffend, and who is just caught up should be given another chance and they'll clean their act up. That kind of calculation that has to get made in the criminal justice system is one that's very much affected by the race of the person under consideration.

Kamran: I'm curious, do you have any of those statistics or facts as far as substantiating bias in policing? If someone were to be a skeptic and say, 'I don't think that there is a systemic racial bias in policing', do you have facts that you point to to kind of prove that point?

Nazgol: Sure. So first, what I would say to someone who says that is a lot of times people who have the view that there's no bias in policing, what they will do is they will point to differences in crime rates. And they say that's what accounts for differences in police contact with people of color compared to whites. And the first thing that I would say is that there are differences in crime rates, of the kinds of crimes that our criminal justice system handle. And in particular, this is true when you look at the most violent crime.

Nazgol: So, for example, if you look at homicide, there are higher rates of homicide victimization among African-Americans in the United States compared to white. Black Americans are more likely to be killed than white Americans. Homicide is what's considered an intra-racial crime typically...people tend to kill other people of the same race as them. That means there are higher rates of homicide offending among African-Americans in our society than among whites. So why is that? The reason for that is if you look at how our society is comprised, where is the wealth? Where are people concentrated geographically? Black Americans disproportionately experience concentrated urban poverty. If you somehow flip the script and you had our inner cities populated by White Americans, you would have higher rates of homicide offending among Whites.

Nazgol: But if you look at the other end of the spectrum, for example, if you look at drug offenses there, that's where you see and you see this with more generally with lower level offenses. There are not, there's not a significant difference between blacks and whites in how often these kinds of offenses happen.

Nazgol: So here's the most -- one of the most trivial things that I think the criminal justice system directs its attention to is making arrests for marijuana possession. So if you look at how often people use marijuana, you see that between blacks and whites, there's almost no difference in reported rates of marijuana use.

Nazgol: But the ACLU, for example, has done an analysis that's shown that for example, in 2018 police officers arrested black people for marijuana possession at three point six times the rate that they arrested whites for something that blacks and whites do at similar rates. So when you look at crime like that, then you see there's not a big difference in the underlying activity. You could point to some issues like, well, maybe it's more likely to happen outdoors for black Americans So maybe that explains part of it, but it doesn't explain all of it.

Nazgol: So to understand disparities in police enforcement for low level offenses, that's where you really have to understand "what is the police department's policy about where they're sending people to look"? Are they sending people to look on university campuses or are they sending people to look into adjoining neighborhoods of the university for drugs? What's the departmental policy? I think that's really important to look at. And then secondly, what's happening in terms of the discretion of individual officers about who to stop, who to pull over and who to search.

Kamran: Now, I've heard and I've been doing some research on forums and less official sources where I can see, for instance, Reddit has a thread where you can it's called Ask Law Enforcement Officer and one thing that I that I read that really stuck with me was ...This is a cop speaking, said "the view on racial profiling at my department is: it doesn't happen, and it works". And I feel like that is to me, it's kind of indicative of a lot of the frustration around trying to study this academically is that it's not always on on paper right? It's not necessarily explicitly stated, cops should racially profile. But you do see it. Have you been able to find evidence that shows racial profiling occurs, even if it's not explicitly stated in the police?

Nazgol: Oh, sure. So I have a couple of things to say about that. So one thing to notice is that over time, the disparities in how often police officers pull over black versus white drivers in particular has decreased over time. So things are not as bad as they used to be. However, if you look more closely at that data, you see a couple of different things.

Nazgol: So one thing that you would see if you look at that data is, one, how often police officers pull over white drivers for what are called "traffic safety stops" compared to how often they pull over drivers of color for investigatory stops. So basically, when police officers pull over drivers, if the driver is white, they're more likely to pull him over for a traffic safety stop. So this is this has to do with the way that the person is driving. This is sort of like most obvious police stops where the person's going 20 miles over the limit. There's a safety consideration to pulling that person over there.

Nazgol: On the other hand, with investigatory stops, they're considered "pretext stops." These are stops where people are being pulled over for how they look. So the police officer is pulling somebody over because they think that there's something criminal going on inside that car. So think about how likely it is that race affects that calculation of whether or not someone's engaged in criminal activity.

Nazgol: So people of color are more likely to be pulled over for investigatory reasons. These are the kinds of reasons where you see an officer explaining that they pulled someone over because they were going a little too slow. They didn't change signals when they turn when they change lanes. Or they just gave no reason at all. They just wanted to see what's up. And so they they stopped the driver. When you divide, stops of drivers into traffic safety stops versus investigatory stuff, that's where you see a big difference.

Nazgol: Something else that you can see is when the officers search drivers and they're much more likely to search black drivers and drivers of color than white drivers. And they search black drivers in particular at such a high rate that they have a lower what's called "the contraband hit rate" typically among black drivers than white drivers. Among the drivers that they search, they're more likely to find drugs or weapons among white drivers than among black drivers because they searched so many black drivers.

Nazgol: So I think that's important to consider in some jurisdictions, like, for example, in Connecticut, I know they've done this kind of analysis where I think it's really interesting to know about. It's called a veil of darkness analysis, where the researchers look at how often police pull people over by race in the daytime when the police officer is more likely to have a sense of the race of the driver compared to at night. So, for example, they might compare police motor vehicle stops at five p.m. in February when it might be dark versus five p.m. in July. And what they see in those analysis sometimes is that police officers are more likely to pull over black drivers when they can see the driver in the summertime than in the wintertime when it's dark. So those are those are a couple of other examples of where we can see clearly that racial bias of the individual officer is relevant and how often people are pulled over, why they're pulled over and what happens after they're pulled over and whether they're searched.

Kamran: Do you think that there is a view among police that that is effective, that what they're doing works, or you think that this is just an extension of a broader American culture?

Nazgol: Well, I would say that I would say it's a little bit of both. Certainly, anyone that lives in our society is exposed to the kind of media that we're exposed to, where you look at the evening news, look at the kind of crimes that are portrayed. There's been analyses that have been done also of some newspapers, for example, and the kind of the rate at which crimes committed by people of color are depicted and overrepresented in combination with the rate at which white victimization is portrayed as overrepresented.

Nazgol: So that leaves White Americans to have an exaggerated sense of how much they're likely to be at risk of violent crime and to under appreciate how much Black Americans are at risk of victimization of violent crime. So that's sort of just part of what you would absorb within our society. Just watching TV, reading newspapers. But within policing, I think there is a lot of reliance on gut feeling about what works.

Nazgol: And sometimes what police officers will point to is they'll say, "Well, I'm not engaging in racial profiling, but it is the case that I do most of my work in a high crime neighborhood." And that would make sense because this is a neighborhood that's disproportionately experiencing crime. This is a place where I'm called to more often to come and do my work.

Nazgol: And so when you're when you're overwhelmingly focusing on communities of color, neighborhoods of color, then you don't even need to be racially profiling as an act of discretion. That's just where you're sort of stationed and who you're going to be pulling over. So if your department has a stop and frisk policy and you're just going and you're stopping it a lot as many people, you're trying to fill quotas that you might not acknowledge exists, you're going to be stopping a lot of young people of color in those communities.

Nazgol: But another point that some police officers and prosecutors make, which is correct, and it needs to be followed up by by police departments and by city leaders, is that as a result of this kind of policing--broken windows policing-- where they're where they're doing a lot of arrests for low level offenses with the idea that that's going to tackle violent crime, or stop and frisk or just a lot of traffic safety, traffic stops for people... What ends up happening is that they end up having very bad relationships with people in these communities. People in these communities feel over-policed for low level offenses. And then when it comes to very serious crimes, when they experience that these are not the officers that they want to cooperate with to help, to investigate and help to prosecute these crimes. So police end up sort of shooting themselves in the foot when they are going after so many people for low level offenses in high crime neighborhoods. But also, beyond that, expect those people to cooperate with them and sometimes really jeopardize their own lives in the process of cooperating with the police. And that expectation is an unfair one. And then that's how you end up having a situation where police officers really struggle to solve homicide cases because they just can't get witnesses. They can't get people to cooperate with them in investigations for serious crime.

Kamran: Definitely. Do you have theories as to why or when this started as far as broken windows policing. Where it seems like there's this over policed state has always been the case in America. Is that something that's modern and where does that come from?

Nazgol: So I think it's important to think about and contextualize this within a grasp of what's happened with violent crime rates in our society. In the 1970s, early 70s, crime rates started to increase in the United States.


Nazgol: Policies were implemented, especially beginning in the 1980s, to try to crack down on crime rates because crime rates continue to climb in the 80s and only by the 1990s, mid 90s, did they reach their peak levels and they've been falling rather dramatically since the 1990s. So as a result of that, anyone that has been in office or has had a leadership position in criminal justice since the 1990s tries tries to take credit for that crime drop.

Nazgol: But what's troubling about that claim is that whatever we did in policing works -- such as broken windows policing, which really took off in the 1990s...stop and frisk really took off around that time and continued in the 2000s... So There's been a lot of research that has carefully assessed, "Did these kinds of policing activities that dramatically increase police contact with urban communities of color, especially, did they help to lower crime rates?" And the answer was pretty clearly that they made either no or a marginal contribution to the crime drop that we've experienced.

Nazgol: And the same is true for incarceration, because the United States dramatically increased its incarceration levels by 700 percent from 1972 to 2009 and only recently has been scaling back. And so the reason we know that is by detailed analysis that look at jurisdictions within the United States to see, well, the ones that were harsher in terms of policing or second prison sentencing, did they have a bigger crime drop? They did not.

Nazgol: But we can also look at this more broadly and look at it internationally and see that the United States is among about two dozen countries that has experienced a dramatic crime drop. And so there's global patterns and demographics, economic situations, many other factors that have contributed to the crime drop. And it's really myopic to point to any policing policy or any kind of increase in incarceration that we've done in the United States that we've been exceptional in doing and suggests that that's what's responsible for the crime drop that we've experienced.

Kamran: It's very interesting because I know that at least when I hear critics here defending the police and people who criticize us and our advocates for policing tend to always point to a couple of things. One of those being kind of the 1980s, 1990s crime wave. And I was pretty young when all that was happening was born in 91. So I never saw it firsthand. But I know that with a lot of my parents generation, that's commonly cited point. Right. And that's kind of how Giuliani got famous in New York. He was tough on crime there. And I think probably one of the biggest proponents of stop and frisk. It's definitely interesting to hear of countering academic perspective,

Kamran: I think, along those lines. One of the things I've been interested in helping to elaborate on is you talk about a cascading of racial disparity as you progressed through the criminal justice system after someone gets arrested. We can look at what you said, disproportionate rates for stopping and arresting. There's actually the sentencing and conviction. Can you elaborate a little bit more on where we see or if we see racial disparities with sentencing and conviction rates?

Nazgol: Sure. So what happens is the way that I like to think about it is the criminal justice system can't do that much about the differences in crime rates. I talked about earlier, though, in some ways it can make it worse by processing people through the system, especially for very trivial things like marijuana possession. And what happens when someone has a marijuana conviction on their record is for the rest of their lives, that's going to be something that comes up when they apply for a job, when they apply for housing. So when you have police forces disproportionately looking for that in communities of color, low income communities of color, that means you're disproportionately harming the life outcomes of people in those communities who got picked up for that very low level thing. So anyway, setting aside the disparities in crime rates within the criminal justice system at every stage, what we see is a little bit of racial disparity.

Nazgol: So the first question is, if you've committed what's considered a crime, that's the criminal justice system deals with, do you even get arrested? You get picked up after the arrest. Does the prosecutor decide to dismiss charges against you or not? Race matters there. And it's not a huge difference between blacks or other people of color. But there's some difference.

Nazgol: Then the question is, what does it? Prosecutor dismissed charges if the prosecutor brings charges against you. Do they bring charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence? Race matters there, because that charging decision is going to tie the judge's hands and it's going to threaten you with a very long sentence.

Nazgol: The next question is, are you held pre-trial while you're while you're figuring out your case? Race matters there. And the way that matters is not just by the discretion of people that are deciding whether or not you should be detained pre-trial, but whether or not you can afford to post bail. And we know that people of color and African-Americans in particular are disproportionately likely to be poor in our country. And so they're less likely to be able to post bail if it's demanded.

Nazgol: After the bail question, when to the extent that the judge has discretion, that that becomes relevant because the judge is going to look at you and think, "Well, is this an upstanding person that messed up once or is this someone who likely has had a lot of encounters with crime and is going to continue to go on to criminally offend afterwards?" Race matters in that decision

Nazgol: And if they've held in pre-trial detention and if there's a mandatory sentence that's been imposed, threatened against them, they're going to accept the worst plea offer then if they were otherwise in a different situation. And so people of color disproportionately end up accepting worse plea offers and given worse plea offers than whites.

Nazgol: Once you're in prison. What kind of interaction do you have with the guards? How often are you going to get written up for not listening to the guards and obeying their orders? We know that race matters there as well, and that disciplinary record in prison is going to be something that determines whether you qualify for earlier release because of good behavior, It's going to potentially delay your parole.

Nazgol: Then after you're released, if you have a criminal record, you're going to have a very difficult time applying for housing, employment. Especially with the discretionary decisions, whether what an employer thinks of you, what a landlord thinks of you. Race becomes very relevant again. There are people who have criminal records are discriminated against in all kinds of markets that they face afterwards. But if they're black and they have a criminal record, they're especially likely to be discriminated against. And so the punishment is not over when you when you're done with your sentence of prison, probation or whatever, it's going to continue to haunt you, that record for the rest of your life. It's going to make it so that your family is poor, that you would have otherwise been.

Kamran: I want to go back a second to policing, because that seems to be the focus of the protest currently. Do you think basically it sounds like you've described a law process with many steps in the criminal justice system, each having its own biases, and policing kind of being the entryway into that process. Do you think the police departments and policing is more racist than the other steps, or do you think that we should be focusing on the entire process of criminal justice?

Nazgol: That's a great question. I'm not sure policing is more racist. And I know that's something that people think about is the issue of educational level and training with policing.

Nazgol: And compared to, for example, the attorneys that are going to be processing your case. Once you're after you're arrested, police tend to have lower levels of education. And so there are calls to require police officers to have at least have a college degree. And so that's one issue.

Nazgol: But certainly there are people that have...you know a college degree, doesn't erase bias, and it doesn't make people more aware of the systemic racism, or more able necessarily to tackle the problem in their workplace.

Nazgol: There have been a number of studies that have been done to reveal the presence of implicit bias among regular people and people working in different fields, including among police officers. So some of these studies do, for example, show pictures to people, too, for example, to officers and ask them, OK, well, here's a simulated experiment. When you see a picture of someone holding a weapon. We want you to press that button here. And if you see someone who is holding something that's not a weapon. Press this other button. And what happens is that when you do that kind of experiment with people that are not police officers, researchers have found quite a lot of bias where people will incorrectly identify something as a weapon that's not a weapon. It's held by a person of color in particular if someone who's African-American.And so there is that misidentification of what an object is at someone's hand because of the assumption of the association of criminality with African-Americans.

Nazgol: And when these kinds of studies have been done with police officers, what they found is that police officers actually are tend to be less biased than the general public. But they there is still a bias in how they perform these experiments. So they're more likely to more rapidly identify the weapon in the hand of the person who's African-American than when they see it in the hand of a person who is white. So that's just one example. So there have been these kinds of experiments that have been done to show bias.

Nazgol: So there is evidence of bias in experiments that have been done, but also in when you look more systematically at the actual outcome of policing work that's done.

Kamran: It's very interesting. So you think if you were to generalize, I don't know if it's even useful to give any sort of figure. But do you think that we're talking about a majority of Americans, a minority, a large majority? If you were to say what percent of Americans carry some sort of implicit racial bias, what percent would you say?

Nazgol: That's a good question. I mean, I don't have the number off the top of my head from the research that I've seen on this. But I would guess that it's something like three quarters of Americans at least have some kind of implicit bias, if not more. Typically, what researchers have shown is that it's a higher percentage among white Americans than among people of color.

Nazgol: So have found this to be the case for myself personally, even during times when I've been doing research and writing about implicit bias. So during the time that I wrote this Black Lives Matter report for The Sentencing Project, I remember I was looking out my window and my neighbor has had their car rental service that's set up in his back in his parking spot in the alley. And so people routinely come and go into that into that into his driveway to use that chair, that car share system. And so I would never think twice about seeing people walking down my alley, walking into my neighbor's driveway to get one of these cars. But I remember once seeing a young group, young group of young men and young woman who were African-American. And I stopped what I was doing and just looked to see, well, why, why, why are they in my neighbor's yard? What exactly what what are they up to? And I realized that's exactly. Even though I'm spending all my day thinking about this issue, writing about it, trying to figure out how to solve it, but that's exactly the kind of suspicion that happens when you know that people don't necessarily catch that affects their work. That kind of suspicion and assumption of criminality that makes you stop look twice.

Nazgol: And what researchers have found is that if you the more you make race very salient for people, the more likely you are to help them catch those moments so that they can stop it and do something about it. And so that comes with not just implicit bias training that people would need to undergo, but also with a system of accountability in their work. So if you're a prosecutor or if you're a police officer with having data on how often are you arresting people, how often are you searching people? What kind of charges are you bringing and how does that differ by race? People working in the criminal justice system need that kind of feedback and accountability for their work to be able to eradicate the bias that they would otherwise inevitably produce. That's very difficult for anyone living in our society to not to not create in their work.

Kamran: Speaking of mechanisms to kind of prevent that bias, as you've talked about, coming across examples of success that you finally have you have you seen examples of police departments approving criminal justice improvements? Anything that we can point to as far as saying this is the route that we should try and emulate?

Nazgol: Sure. So the first thing I would say is when it comes to policing and when it comes to criminal justice more broadly, I think it's important to have two goals in mind, and one of them is to get rid of bias and disparities. But the other goal is to just scale the whole thing back within the criminal justice system when sentencing.

Nazgol: That means getting rid of prison sentences, disparate sentencing disparities, but also making it that far fewer people overall, black, white, Latino, everything are going to prison and are staying there for a shorter period of time. That those two things need to be done at the same time, because sometimes I think what happens is when we look at very high profile cases where someone seems to have gotten away with something, especially if they're white and privileged, I think it's a natural instinct to say that's not fair, that they got that deal.

Nazgol: We want to do is make it so that everyone gets a fair and just outcome. Not not everyone going to the opposite extreme and making sure that the privileged white people that are getting processed are treated like everybody else. But let's treat everybody else with what is a fair outcome that the privileged white people are getting in the system.

Nazgol: Marie Gottschalk , who's a Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania political science professor, has made the argument that even the way we treat white people in this country is too harsh. For example, if you look at imprisonment levels, if we only had white people in prison in the United States, we would still have a mass incarceration problem. So we need to tackle the disparities and bring down contact, police contact and incarceration overall for everyone.


Nazgol: So I think that the reason I put out this Black Lives Matter report with the Sentencing Project in 2015, and that was after Michael Brown was killed by the officer in Ferguson. And the goal there was to encourage people who were interested in policing and thinking about these biases in policing the fatal outcomes that could result with police actions to encourage them to think more broadly about how this happens in the criminal justice system as well. A lot of people are harmed with their policing encounters, even if they're not physically hurt. Right. Even if it's just the knowing that a person with a weapon pulled you over that didn't need to pull you over, just that possible threat of force that might be used against you is something that is haunting. That's not that's not trivial. That's significant. And similarly, when you go through different stages, the criminal justice process, levels of freedom are taken away from you. And sometimes that can be fatal.

Nazgol: Sometimes, like, for example, right now during the pandemic, many of us who can are working from home. But there's been hardly any meaningful steps to to depopulate prisons during the pandemic, even though most prison way over capacity. These are places where the virus in some places has been spreading rapidly and it's unnecessarily putting people's lives at risk to keep them in these institutions.

Nazgol: Sandra Bland's suicide, KaLieF Browders suicide after he was released from being held for three years on Rikers Island and a substantial portion of that time in solitary confinement.

Nazgol: Those are the most extreme ways that we can think about the way the violence that's known to people as a result of their contact with the system, people who shouldn't have had contact with the system at all. But there is also a broader issue, a broader prevalence of harm that's done to people, even some people who have certainly committed crimes, some people who need to be held accountable for their crime in some kind of way, but especially during this period of the pandemic, it's really underscored for me how little willingness there is to act on the understanding that we have way too many people in the criminal justice system that we don't need to have there.


Kamran: I think that all the time we have for today. I really appreciate your expertise. I always ask all my guests before they leave this podcast is about trying to have conversations and learning from another via conversation, if you were to leave our audience with something to think about and talk about, what would you have them discuss?

Nazgol: I think that the thing that I would encourage people to think about is when it comes to incarceration in particular and addressing the problem of mass incarceration, for people to realize that whenever they hear someone talk about reducing incarceration for non-violent drug offenses, that's not going to be enough to ending mass incarceration, because right now, half of the people that are in prison that are serving sentences of a year or longer in prison are there for a violent offense that includes crimes like assault, robbery and more serious crimes like rape and murder. So if we want to end mass incarceration in the United States and I think of that as a goal that's related to the policing reform and defunding discussions that we're having if we want to end mass incarceration. What we really need to do is move beyond thinking about ending the drug war, to also think about why is it that we have these excessive prison sentences for violent crimes and how can we scale it back?

Nazgol: And how does that trickle down in terms of how the criminal justice system operates for lower level offenses when we have so many people serving such a very long prison sentences, shorter sentences for nonviolent offenses seem not so bad. Arrests and dismissals for very minor things seem not so bad. But all of these forms of contact and time within the within incarceral settings are damaging for people and need to be addressed.

Kamran: All right, well, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for your academic expertise. I think it's something that is very refreshing to have someone that's done the research and hopefully we can see some progress that all Americans want to see.


Thank you so much for your thoughts Nazgol. For listeners interested in more of Nazgols' work or learning more about the effort to reduce our prison population, check it out at SentencingProject.org


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