What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Why Are We Locking So Many People Up?

May 5, 2010, 12:00 AM
3579096098_c3bc93ecf7
Incarceration rates quintupled over the last third of the 20th century, and conventional wisdom is that it must have something to do with a corresponding rise in crime. Robert Perkinson, author of "Texas Tough: The Rise of a Prison Empire," says that's not so. He believes the dramatic rise in our prison population "really has to do with politics, and in particular it has to do with racial politics." In his Big Think interview, Perkinson also talks about how the prison system has become focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and why locking more people up doesn't keep the public any safer.

In his research, Perkinson took a look at Texas's prison system—which currently has 171,000 people locked up, and has the highest rate of executions in the country—and examined it as a microcosm of the prison system in the U.S.  "I felt that Texas was a place where we can see the Southern influence of criminal justice on the nation because it’s a kind of bridge between the Deep South and the West and the Midwest. And it really was where the action was," says Perkinson. "I think it was the right place to look because I think looking carefully at the history of Texas kind of makes us rethink the history of crime and punishment and incarceration in the country as a whole."

Perkinson also talks about the fact that the issue of prison rape is starting to be taken more seriously. "There’s so many people in prison that sexual victimization in prison now has come to constitute a significant portion of the sexual victimizations in the society as a whole," he says . Aside from the injustice of these in-prison crimes, Perkinson notes that prison rape now constitutes a growing public health risk, as facilities have become incubators of hepatitis B, HIV and antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. "All of that has consequences beyond prison walls," he says. "It’s yet another reason to try to use incarceration as a penalty of last resort than a penalty of first resort, as we have started doing in recent years."
 

Why Are We Locking So Many ...

Newsletter: Share: