As the CEPR report cited in the original post points out, the financial cost of this absurd policy is astronomical. “[A] reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of non-violent offenders” would save U.S. state and local governments at least $14.8B/year, and would still leave the incarceration rate quite high in historical terms.
So what tipped the country into collective lunacy in 1980? Ronald Reagan? Or was he just a symptom?