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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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January 13, 2012

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.

New ACLU Report on How States Can Reduce Unnecessary Spending on Prisons by Improving Their Cost Evaluation Process
This week, the ACLU and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released “Improving Budget Analysis of State Criminal Justice Reforms: A Strategy for Better Outcomes and Saving Money.” Across the nation, state governments are mired in a severe budget crisis. At the same time, states are spending massive amounts of money to maintain our incarceration system – which is the largest in the world. This report details how a change to the way states perform cost evaluations of proposed reforms could help alleviate the budget strain and reduce mass incarceration. The report’s suggested improvements will help states better understand the fiscal savings of these reforms and enact new laws that will rely less on prisons, continue to protect public safety, and promote fairness. Read a piece by co-author and ACLU policy counsel Inimai Chettiar discussing the economic importance of the report for the Center for American Progress and another by Chettiar discussing how it can help end overincarceration on the blog of the American Constitution Society.

Op-ed on Drug Testing the Poor
U.S. News & World Report published an op-ed by ACLU Deputy Legal Director Vanita Gupta on the recent spate of state proposals to require drug testing of individuals receiving many forms of public assistance. The piece asserts that we should not support these ineffective, unconstitutional, and costly government programs that intrude into the lives of Americans and target the most vulnerable among us. Read our recent blog posts on drug testing for benefits here.

Criminal Justice Reform 2011
As we enter a new year, read our wrap-up of the good, the bad, and what lies ahead for advocates working to end overincarceration.

Right to Counsel at Bail Hearings in Maryland
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in DeWolfe v. Richmond that defendants are entitled to appointed counsel during bail hearings. The ACLU and ACLU of Maryland participated in the case as amici.

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