When tough-on-crime laws passed 30 years ago during an era of drug-fueled violence, they were supported across the political spectrum. The subsequent "war on drugs" sent non-violent offenders to prison for decades and, in some cases, life.
As a result, the nation's prison and jail population today is 2.3 million, more than quadruple the number that were incarcerated in 1980. One in 100 adults is behind bars in America. As many as 100 million American adults now have criminal records, and a disproportionate number of those are men of color.
Washington Post reporters, in a series of revealing and wrenching stories throughout 2015, unlocked the prison gates and allowed listeners to experience the human devastation wrought by sentencing policies now under scrutiny.