Date of Award

Spring 6-2018

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Global Honors

First Advisor

Sarah Hampson


American exceptionalism is often positively connotated; America’s exceptionalism often refers to the nation’s unique, progressive ideals of liberty during the nation’s founding, as well as the premise of a free Democratic Republic. While the United States of America has many positive and exceptional qualities, this research illustrates an unfortunate exceptional American quality: the mass incarceration of over 2.3 million people in the United States of America. This paper reviews the literature to understand the evolution of mass incarceration on the basis of three lines: the United States’ history of race, the nation’s governmental structure and the development of policy. Additionally, this paper will use a comparative evaluation of the United States in relation to England and Germany through the three previously listed qualities. England is used in comparison to the United States through the similar government structure and policy development methods which led to increased incarceration resulting from England’s past history with race. England, along with the United States, is currently facing a mass incarceration problem of its own. Germany is compared to the United States mostly through the country’s racial history and how this history does not currently permeate their criminal justice system in the same way racial history does for both the United States and England. This paper concludes by determining that the government structure, history with race, and the development of policy are all unique solely to the United States, leading to the uniqueness of the United States of America’s mass incarceration problem.