Blog of Rights

Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

By Rebecca McCray, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 2:31pm

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 discoursethat we’ve spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.

Jurors Need to Know That They Can Say No
In this powerful editorial, Paul Butler explains why jurors in marijuana cases should exercise their right to vote “not guilty.” A staunch advocate of jury nullification, Butler suggests jurors who willfully ignore the law in unjust cases are part of a proud American tradition.

Almost 1 in 3 U.S. Youths Arrested by Age 23, Researchers Say
A disturbing new study in the journal Pediatrics revealed that nearly 30 percent of young Americans will be arrested by the time they turn 23. Coming into contact with the criminal justice system at a young age can set off a cascade of collateral consequences for youth, such as unemployment and a greater risk of family conflict.

Awaiting Trial and Unable to Make Bail, Women Spend Holidays in Prison
A series of work by photographer Clara Vanucci documents an annual holiday party for women in jail at Rikers Island. They are part of a program that offers counseling and activities for women who have been victims of domestic violence and arrested on charges related to their abuse.

How Do You Hold Mentally Ill Offenders Accountable?
According to Jon De Morales, director of California’s Atascadero hospital, “There are criminals who happen to exhibit symptoms of a mental disorder," and "there are mentally ill people who happen to have committed crimes. They all end up in the same place.” Some argue this shouldn’t be the case. This article examines the complex problem of protecting both those who work with the mentally ill, and the mentally ill themselves.

“Realigning” Criminal Justice in California: Real Reform, or Shifting the Deck Chairs?
Professor of Criminology Elliott Currie reflects on and reviews California’s criminal justice realignment efforts in 2011. Currie suggests that while the effort to redistribute California’s prisoners is a “generally reasonable intervention” in the chaos of the state’s overcrowded system, it fails to address “the ongoing crisis of the communities from which the great bulk of the prison and jail population comes.”

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