Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it's ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we feature our some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we've spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.
California: L.A. County Sheriff Endorses Plan to Shutter Notorious Jail
For years, Men's Central Jail in L.A. County has been plagued by inmate killings, excessive force by guards and poor supervision. This week, Sheriff Lee Baca joined the ACLU in endorsing a report that provides a roadmap for shuttering the jail in the next two years.
Florida: Governor Vetoes Widely Supported Sentencing Reform Bill
H.B. 177, which would have permitted a small group of drug-addicted inmates to participate in intensive treatment programs after serving half their time, passed the Florida Senate 40-0 and the House 112-4. Nevertheless, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill, claiming that release of nonviolent drug offenders after treatment would create a public safety issue and insisting that the state stick to a rule created in the 90s that inmates serve at least 85 percent of their imposed sentences.
Hawaii's New Probation Program a Remarkable Success, Study Finds
A year-long evaluation funded by the National Institute of Justice of Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program, which addresses probation violations in a swift and proportionate manner, found that the program is a remarkable success. The program has reduced both violations and revocations of probation, allowing probationers to break the cycle of recidivism. Compared with probationers in a control group, HOPE probationers were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime, 72 percent less likely to use drugs, 61 percent less likely to skip appointments with their supervisory officer, and 53 percent less likely to have their probation revoked.
Louisiana Parole Reform Bill Advances
A Louisiana House committee voted unanimously to send to the House floor a bill that would allow some second-time felons a chance to apply for early release after they have served one-third of their sentences. The bill would apply only to second-time felons who are not sentenced for crimes of violence or sex-related offenses.
Missouri Advances Bill to Mitigate Crack Cocaine Sentencing Disparity
The Missouri House voted 151-1 to reduce the sentencing disparity between offenses related to crack and powder cocaine. Under current state trafficking laws, someone found with two grams of crack faces the same prison sentence as a person found with 150 grams of cocaine. The proposed legislation would raise the minimum amount of crack to 28 grams to be charged with trafficking. The bill now moves to the Missouri Senate.
CORRECTION: The original version of this post stated that the Florida Senate voted 42-0 in favor of HB 177. The actual vote was 40-0.