Blog of Rights

Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

By Rebecca McCray, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 1:28pm

Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. Withover 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.

Last week, we released a new report: Smart Reform is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities. The report details how several states with long histories of being "tough on crime" have enacted bipartisan reforms relying on alternatives to incarceration, underscoring that reform is not only politically and fiscally viable, but that other states must also urgently follow suit. These six states — Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio — also experienced declines in their crime rates while these new policies were in place.

The report further documents ongoing reform efforts in four more states — California, Louisiana, Maryland, and Indiana — and identifies national criminal justice trends. It offers selected recommended reforms to pre-trial, sentencing, parole, and probation systems that lawmakers can enact to reduce states' incarceration rates and corrections budgets while keeping communities safe. Here are a few of the places our report has appeared since its release:

Trend to Lighten Harsh Sentences Catches On in Conservative States
The New York Times quoted Vanita Gupta, ACLU Deputy Legal Director, and referenced our report in an article discussing the opportunities for criminal justice reform that have found support in conservatives and liberals alike.

States benefit by lowering prison terms: ACLU
This Reuters piece features our report, and could be found on Wednesday as a selected headline in the elevator news service, "Captivate."

A Way Toward Balancing Government Budgets While Promoting Justice: Break Our Addiction to Incarceration
Deputy Legal Director Vanita Gupta and Policy Counsel Inimai Chettiar, the primary authors of this report, tell readers at the American Constitution Society blog about the silver lining of our fiscal crisis: a great opportunity for criminal justice reform. Their post was cross-posted on Huffington Post.

Prison reform: Does high incarceration lead to high crime rates?
Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, talks with Eyewitness Morning News about our report and the recent elderly parole legislation.

Downsizing Maryland's Prisons
The Baltimore Sun's "Our View" section featured an editorial highlighting our report and discussing its application to Maryland's need to downsize its prison system.

Indiana: Sentencing reform fuel
This supportive editorial highlights our report and encourages Indiana lawmakers to continue to push for criminal justice reform in their state.

In report on prison reform, ACLU gives qualified praise to Louisiana
This local New Orleans piece discusses our choice to feature criminal justice related legislative successes in Louisiana.

Finally, the report was featured on several blogs, including: The blog of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM): The Economy Stinks, But Sentencing Reform Smells Like Roses; The Crime Report: "Success Stories" of Smart Criminal Justice Reform; and Sentencing Law and Policy: "Smart Reform is Possible".

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