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The United States leads the world in the number of people in prison

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The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of people in prison — accounting for more than 20% of the global prison population. The original role of prison is to reform those who have committed crimes to become good neighbors and good citizens. However, have prisons achieved the goal of widespread rehabilitation?

Research has shown that America’s prison population tends to follow patterns. Those who also struggle with poverty, mental illness and substance abuse are often put in jail, and those problems worsen with incarceration. In addition to socioeconomic and behavioral problems, communities of color tend to also be disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts.

The U.S. still leads the world with the highest incarcerated population, but there has been a steady decline since 2008.

Why is the U.S. continuing to lead the world in the number of people in prison? What would it take to reform America’s prison system? Do modern-day prisons focus on rehabilitation? Why is the recidivism rate in America so much higher than other countries?

Guest: Bill Keller, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, former executive editor of The New York Times, founding editor in chief of The Marshall Project, and author of "What's Prison For? Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Age of Mass Incarceration"

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, October 5.

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