Ta-Nehisi Coates on Late Night: U.S. Should Cut Prison Pop By 80 Percent


The Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates appeared on Monday’s episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers to discuss the mass incarceration epidemic currently plaguing the country.

Host Seth Meyers was particularly interested in the MacArthur recipient‘s recent article, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” which appeared in the October issue of The Atlantic. “[What is] the level of mass incarceration in this country?” Meyers asked Coates, whose October cover story crunched the specific numbers on African-American incarceration rates, but also delved into the country’s general incarceration rates since the 1970s.

“Well,” Coates began, “we have a lot of people in jail.”

Coates then recited a litany of numbers, rates and statistics. To anyone unfamiliar with the U.S. penal system’s recent history, the data wouldn’t make that much sense. But when compared to countries like Russia and China, these numbers paint a much more frightening picture.

“We have 750 per 100,000 people in jail. That is the highest in the world. The next closest competitor in the world is Russia” with 450 per 100,000 people in jail,” said Coates. “We have roughly 2.2 million people in our jails and prisons. China has four times our population. We have half a million more people [in jail].”

“The thing to understand is, it was not always this way,” he concluded, adding: “To get back to our 1970 level of incarceration, we gotta cut our prison population by like 80 percent.”

Check out the clip above, via NBC.

[Image via screengrab]

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