Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

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.

The Daily Show Takes on Drug Testing for Public Benefits
The Daily Show interviewed ACLU client Luis Lebron as part of a funny and trenchant segment on Florida’s new law that requires drug testing of individuals applying for public assistance.  You can learn more about drug testing for benefits here, and you can take action by joining the ACLU’s pledge to oppose Florida’s burdensome and unconstitutional drug-testing program.

Fair Federal Sentencing
Last week, the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project filed an amicus brief in Hill v. U.S. and Dorsey v. U.S., in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack- and powder cocaine-related offenses, can apply retroactively.

In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s guidelines continue to get attention from legislators and the media.  To learn more, you can check out the blog post by the ACLU’s Sandhya Bathija and watch a panel discussion, moderated by the ACLU’s Senior Legislative Counsel Jesselyn McCurdy, that explores the current state of federal sentencing guidelines and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Florida Considers Privatizing 29 Prisons
Two bills before the Florida Senate not only require the privatization of all 29 prisons in Southern Florida, but they circumvent typical appropriations procedure so that privatization can proceed immediately.  Take action against these bills by joining the ACLU of Florida’s action letter to the Florida Senate.

Racial Justice Act
The first hearing under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act (RJA) continues this week. The ACLU and co-counsel represent Marcus Robinson, a black defendant convicted in the death of a white person and who received a far harsher judgment than similarly-situated white defendants from a jury that may have been racially biased.  Watch our video featuring three African-Americans excluded from capital juries in North Carolina, and learn more about the RJA here.

Raise the Crime Rate
Christopher Glazek provides a cogent look at the incarceration explosion and offers provocative thoughts about reform. He argues that published crime rates, which have been falling, mask the shift of crime from the general public to a growing prison population.  After making the case that elevated levels of violence have made incarceration a much more severe punishment, Glazek suggests that it’s time to rethink how we allocate safety risks between the public and prison populations.

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