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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Former Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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October 31, 2011

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.

Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons
Senate Republicans recently voted down the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, a bill that would have created a much-needed bipartisan coalition to review our criminal justice system and propose recommendations for reform. This editorial calls for senatorial support of the commission, citing many of the alarming facts about the devastating effects of overincarceration in our country.

State budget cuts clog criminal justice system
Budget cuts to state criminal justice systems across the country have had their reform-friendly advantages, but fiscal austerity when it comes to our justice system has its downfalls, too. As this article explains, severe cuts to courts, public defenders, district attorneys and attorney general offices are causing frustration across the country.

Georgia: We cannot maintain a ‘just lock them up’ mentality
This op-ed from Macon, Georgia, discusses the downside to the Telegraph editorial board’s suggestion that their city should build more jail space. The author questions the city’s ability to afford such an expensive undertaking, and dispels the myth that incarcerating more people makes communities safer.

California Jail expansion: Counties seek millions from state
As California’s realignment plan kicks into gear, counties are eager to secure funding from the state for jail expansion. Many opponents to this plan argue the expansion of jails will merely discourage prosecutors and police from taking a creative approach to seeking alternatives to incarceration.

Review: Crimes, Courts and Cures
William J. Stuntz’s new book, “The Collapse of American Criminal Justice,” discusses the complicated relationship between our “lock‘em up” attitude and rates of crime. This review examines the ground covered by the book.

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