Five years ago, while America clutched a tin cup during the recession, politicians shouted hallelujah about saving money by reducing the country's grossly bloated prison population.
The national inmate count declined fractionally for a few years, reaping celebratory headlines. One expert quoted by the New York Times declared "the beginning of the end of mass incarceration."
Then came the bipartisan miracle--the Koch brothers linking arms with libertarians and progressives to declare support for criminal justice reform, prompting dreamy talk about cutting prison rolls in half, to levels last seen before mandatory minimum madness began in the 1990s.
But as another legislative season toddles to a close, where are the broad reforms?
"Right now, the focus is still on reforming sentencing for nonviolent, first-time offenders," says Nkechi Taifa, a senior policy analyst with the Open Society Foundations. "This is the safe, low-hanging fruit of reform…And it's like pulling hen's teeth to even get that kind of legislation passed."