Refreshing Candor, Useful Data, and a Dog’s Breakfast of Proposals: A Review of Locked In by John Pfaff
Federalist Society Review, Vol. 20, p. 124, 2019
13 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 19, 2019
John Pfaff gives us two books under one cover in Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform. In the first book, he tells us that nearly everything we have been told about so-called “mass incarceration” by his fellow “reform” advocates is false. His candor is a breath of fresh air. He convincingly makes the case with a mound of useful data.
The second book, in contrast, is thinly supported and heavily influenced by Pfaff’s predispositions. He tells us that high incarceration rates are caused primarily by overcharging prosecutors, though his data do not rule out alternative hypotheses. He claims that the election of tough prosecutors is caused by the “low-information, high salience electorate,” not by informed people who genuinely and justifiably disagree with him on priorities. The primary ingredients in his stew of solutions are tools to save the ignorant masses from themselves by making our society less democratic and our criminal justice decision-makers less responsible to the people. Other intriguing possibilities raised by his data go unexplored.
Keywords: sentencing, prisons, criminal justice reform
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation