About the Book

Locked In

Locked In

The True Causes of Mass Incarceration — and How to Achieve Real Reform
January 2017
Not Yet Published
Hardcover · 272 Pages
$26.99 U.S. · $34.99 CAN · £17.99 U.K. · €20.99 E.U.
ISBN 9780465096916
Basic Books


A groundbreaking examination of our system of imprisonment, revealing the true causes of mass incarceration as well as the best path to reform The United States, home to about 5 percent of the world's population, holds nearly 25 percent of its prisoners. How did we get to this point? In Locked In, John Pfaff argues that existing accounts of the causes of mass incarceration are fundamentally misguided. The most widely accepted explanations — the failed War on Drugs, draconian sentencing laws, an increasing reliance on private prisons — actually tell us much less than we like to think. Instead, Pfaff urges us to look at other factors, including a major shift in prosecutor behavior that occurred in the mid-1990s, when prosecutors began bringing felony charges against arrestees about twice as often as they had before. An authoritative, clear-eyed account of the root causes of mass incarceration, Locked In ultimately forces us to reconsider what we must to do build a more equitable and humane society.

About the Author

John Pfaff is a Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. His work has been covered in The Economist, The New Yorker, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Slate, among others. He has a JD and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.