The End of Second Acts?

“The saga of redemption and reinvention—the creation of our own individually unique second acts—is arguably the American story,” writes Charles Barber, visiting assistant professor of psychology, visiting writer, in an article co-authored with Shadd Maruna in The Wilson QuarterlyYet Americans’ faith in second acts seems to be slipping over the past few decades. Barber and Maruna write that a “serious early symptom of our declining faith came several decades ago with the loss of belief within the criminal justice system in the possibilities of criminal rehabilitation. Beginning in the 1970s, states gave up this ideal, and began warehousing prisoners in ever greater numbers. The United States now incarcerates a larger percentage of its citizens than any other country, with about one in 100 adults currently behind bars. About a quarter of the world’s prisoners are confined in U.S. prisons and jails.”