By Michelle Alexander
“A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America”
A book by Ernest Drucker
“The Collapse of American Criminal Justice”
A book by William J. Stuntz
“He caught a case,” said Maurice, a black teenager whom I’d been tutoring for a while, as part of a program to address the needs of “at risk” youth.
“You say that like he caught a cold or something. What happened?” I asked.
“Don’t know. He just caught a case. He’s down at the jail. I’m telling you it’s easier to catch a case around here than to catch a cold.”
I remember thinking: You don’t just catch a case.
Or maybe you do.
Ernest Drucker, an internationally recognized public health scholar, professor and physician, contends that mass incarceration ought to be understood as a contagious disease, an epidemic of gargantuan proportions. With voluminous data and meticulous analysis, he persuasively demonstrates in his provocative new book, “A Plague of Prisons,” that the unprecedented surge in incarceration in recent decades is a social catastrophe on the scale of the worst global epidemics, and that modes of analysis employed by epidemiologists to combat plagues and similar public health crises are remarkably useful when assessing the origins, harms and potential cures for what he calls our “plague of imprisonment.”