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Mass incarceration refers to the substantial increase in the number of persons confined to jail or prison in the United States since the 1980s. Criminologists and other scholars commonly agree that incarceration acts as a means to incapacitate individuals who have in some sense brought harm to other individuals and the community. Incapacitation prohibits further harm to society from those who have violated society’s laws, values, and norms by physically removing the offenders from society, making it nearly impossible for them to victimize others outside the confines of the correctional institution. A significant conundrum faced by criminal justice systems and lawmakers is deciding which individuals have committed enough harm to society to justify a sentence of incarceration. Morals, values, and societal fears may factor into ...

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