Blog of Rights

Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

By Rebecca McCray, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 4:14pm

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.

U.S. Correctional and Prison Populations Decline
For the second consecutive year, data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed a decline in the adult correctional population, while crime rates decreased as well. Even more promising is the decline in the total U.S. prison population - caused primarily by a decrease in the state prison population (the federal prison population experienced a slight increase). Though the total population only decreased by 0.6%, this is the first total prison population decline since 1972.

996 Kentucky Inmates get out Early in New Prison Plan
In the coming months, Kentucky will attempt to ease its correctional budget strains by releasing nearly 1,000 inmates. Utilizing a new mandatory supervision program, the state aims to ease the often difficult transition from prison back to life in the community.

Illinois' Juvenile Justice System is Failing, State Report Says
A new study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission has revealed the shortcomings of the state’s juvenile justice system. According to the study, more than half of teens and children released from the system will end up right back in it, indicating the rehabilitative goals of the system are far from being met.

In Florida, Using Military Discipline to Help Veterans in Prison
In an effort to rethink the way incarcerated veterans are treated and in hopes of better preparing them for release, Florida has created special dorms for honorably discharged veterans with no more than three years left in their sentences. By housing the veterans together, the state hopes to address the special needs of this sub-population in its prison system.

Death Sentences Drop To Historic Lows In 2011
A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center shares promising news: judges and juries sent less than 100 people to death row this year. The wrongful execution of Troy Davis this year, as well as the increased public awareness of the high cost of capital cases may be two reasons why the public is more and more ambivalent or opposed to the death penalty.

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