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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

A pair of hands in handcuffs
A pair of hands in handcuffs
Alex Stamm,
ACLU Center for Justice
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April 23, 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.

North Carolina Judge Finds Evidence of Racial Bias in Death Penalty
Concluding that racial bias played a significant factor in the sentencing of a North Carolina man to death, a county judge ordered that the Marcus Robinson's sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole, the first decision under North Carolina's groundbreaking Racial Justice Act.

Louisiana: Panel passes parole bill
There are 24 states with more citizens than Louisiana, but only two with more prisoners serving sentences of life without parole. That's the case because Louisiana law prohibits inmates serving life in prison from being eligible for parole. A Louisiana House committed took steps to reduce its LWOP population when it advanced H.B. 543, which would lift the prohibition on parole eligibility for offenders not convicted of violent or sex-related crimes. Offenders must still appear before the Parole Board for a decision on their release applications.

Texas: SWIFT sanctions can change adult probation in Tarrant County
Another jurisdiction is adopting Hawaii's successful probation program, which reduced probation violations by responding to violations with swift, certain and modest sanctions. Tarrant County contains a section of Fort Worth and a number of Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

Liberal Academic, Tea Party Leader Rethinking Crime Policy
The Daily Beast's Andrew Romano highlights an example of a growing trend – bipartisan support for addressing the problem of a criminal justice system that incarcerates an inexplicably high percentage of our population at a massive expense to taxpayers and communities.

Beyond Stop-and-Frisk
In the New York Times, A Yale law professor and student discuss a more efficient and less destructive alternative to New York's racially biased dragnet stop-and-frisk practice. The alternative is "focused deterrence", which uses community relationships to focus police attention on actual criminals. This more targeted approach to street policing has proven successful in other major cities.

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