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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Former Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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January 27, 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.

The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers
This week, the Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit of the Vera Institute of Justice released an enlightening report, breaking down the costs of state prisons to taxpayers. Their research looks beyond publicized state corrections budgets, proving that that number alone can’t fully encompass the costs of incarceration.

Should Teens Be Jailed for Sex Offenses? A Growing Parental Rebellion Says No
A surprising group of advocates has formed across the country – parents who argue that sex offender laws have needlessly criminalized their children. This profile of one such advocate illustrates the harmful impact these laws can have on some teens, by categorically identifying them as if they were violent sexual predators or pedophiles.

Florida primary: where the Republican candidates stand on drugs
As the presidential battle heats up, Republican candidates at the podium are slinging opinions left and right. This article provides a helpful breakdown of their respective stances on our country’s controversial war on drugs.

Alaska lawmakers seek to cut crime, costs
As Alaska’s prison population booms, lawmakers are forced to consider alternatives to relentlessly long sentences. A summit met this week to discuss other options, including an emphasis on lowering recidivism rates and investing in early childhood education to prevent crime.

Georgia: Chief Justice Calls for Sentencing Reforms
Georgia’s Chief Justice Carol Hunstein addressed lawmakers this week, urging them to make smart, rather than tough, sentencing reforms to divert nonviolent offenders out of the prison system. Hunstein pointed to problem-solving courts, alternatives to incarceration and sentencing reform for juveniles as places to start.

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