"I see a lot of power and persuasive force in the traditional model that focuses first and foremost on how kind of race-baiting politicians used race to cynically win votes, and how our relative indifference to black suffering at the national level is part of what's blinded people to the pain and the misery that is mass incarceration. I lay what I’m doing alongside those. I think we have failed to focus on all of these little tiny decisions. When you stack them up and you add them up across time and across the country, and when you add them up throughout the criminal-justice system from police on the one end, through prosecutors and judges and legislatures and probation and parole officers at the other end of the process—when you look at all of these actors over time and over space and across the country, if everyone only becomes somewhat more punitive, but everyone does it together and everyone does it for decades, you get mass incarceration.
"I do think that’s a crucial part of the story, and I don't think it’s one that has gotten enough attention. Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and the War on Drugs are the kind of natural hinge points for the story, and they're important. But they’re not the only things that are important. It's harder to see some of these smaller decisions."
Matt Ford at The Atlantic interviews James Forman, Jr., author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America .