Live Online Book Forum

Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Corrupted and Can Fix the US Criminal Justice System

(Routledge, 2020)

November 17, 2020 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST

Live Online

Featuring the authors Chris W. Surprenant (@CWSurprenant), Director, University of New Orleans Honors Program and University of New Orleans Urban Entrepreneurship & Policy Institute; Jason Brennan, Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy, McDonough School of Business, and Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University; moderated by Clark Neily (@ConLawWarrior), Vice President for Criminal Justice, Cato Institute.

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America’s criminal justice system is more profoundly broken than most people realize. In their new book, Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Corrupted and Can Fix the US Criminal Justice System, professors Chris Surprenant and Jason Brennan show that much of our system’s dysfunction is simply the result of rational actors responding predictably to economic incentives. Although other factors such as race certainly play a role, “when it comes to the color of justice in America,” they argue, “follow the money. What matters even more than black and white is green.”

Our criminal justice system spends approximately $300 billion per year and employs nearly three million people, and in many ways, it acts like the big business it has become. Not surprisingly, this “prison‐​industrial complex” is highly resistant to change because, as Surprenant and Brennan explain, all of the people employed by the system “have a personal stake in preventing the types of reform that would make their jobs go away.” Despite the strong case that incarceration is often unjustifiably harsh and causes more problems than it solves, we go right on locking people up and earning our status as the world’s most prolific jailers of human beings. Are we doomed to this punitive nightmare, or is there some way to resist our incentive‐​driven addiction to incarceration? We will discuss this and other important questions raised by Surprenant’s and Brennan’s provocative new book.

Additional Resources

Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Corrupted and Can Fix the US Criminal Justice System

American criminal justice is a dysfunctional mess. Cops are too violent, the punishments are too punitive, and the so‐​called Land of the Free imprisons more people than any other country in the world. Understanding why means focusing on color—not only on black or white (which already has been studied extensively), but also on green.

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