According to Fordham University law professor John Pfaff, the U.S. has experienced substantial growth in incarceration rates over the past several decades, and now has a higher incarceration rate than all other industrialized countries, and virtually all countries in general. He says that there is a "standard story" that attempts to explain why incarceration is so prevalent in the U.S. That story points to such factors as longer sentences, the "War on Drugs," and private prisons. According to Pfaff, these are indeed problems, but they are relatively minor contributors to the high levels of U.S. incarceration. In this interview (and in his book) he describes the factors that his data indicate are actually central, and also describes possible reforms.
(Special thanks to the Bates College Digital Media Studios, and especially Colin Kelley)