Listen: How the US can reduce mass incarceration

Former U.S. Marine Kang Seng, 30, sits with fellow inmates at the military Veterans Unit of the Cybulski Rehabilitation Center on May 3, 2016 in Enfield, Connecticut. (Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

The revolving door of mass incarceration returning individuals to jail is “the definition of insanity,” according to Matt Epperson, especially for individuals suffering from mental illness and drug addiction who failed to receive the help they truly needed.

Epperson, associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, has seen the failures of mass incarceration first hand. For more than two decades, Epperson worked with incarcerated individuals as a social worker, including six years in a county jail in Michigan.

“The vast majority of folks I worked with in the jail needed something else than incarceration,” Epperson says.

Epperson, along with a colleague from Washington University in St. Louis, leads the Smart Decarceration Initiative, a program utilizing the field of social work to apply policy and behavioral interventions to sustainably reduce the incarcerated population by nearly half.

On the first episode of the University of Chicago’s new podcast Knowledge Applied, Epperson discusses the history of mass incarceration, the challenges facing Smart Decarceration, and the social and political changes that have occurred over the last decade that may make this the ideal time to begin shrinking the US prison population.

The Knowledge Applied podcast is available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Source: Andrew Bauld for University of Chicago