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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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March 16, 2011

The U.S. today 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, criminal justice reform is heating up. Each week, we feature exciting and relevant news from around the country related to de-incarceration efforts and criminal justice reform that we’ve spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.

States Prosecute Fewer Teenagers in Adult Courts
As research increasingly suggests that prosecuting teens as if they were adults is inappropriate as well as ineffective, New York and North Carolina remain the last stubborn states standing that try 16-year-olds as adults.

Inmate Labor
In response to last week’s New York Times article, “Enlisting Prison Labor to Close Budget Gaps,” this letter points out what the story doesn’t. Cheap prison labor threatens to violate the rights of an already vulnerable population, and many of the impractical tasks assigned to incarcerated workers do little to prepare them for successful reentry or gainful employment after their release.

States Rethink Drug Laws: Treatment Gains Favor Over Long Prison Terms; a New Look at Rehabilitation
The “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” attitude of the so-called “war on drugs” may finally be fading out of fashion, as more states begin to recognize that treatment is a viable and cost-effective alternative to incarceration.

Supreme Court Lets Prisoners Seek DNA Evidence
Prisoners are now allowed to file federal civil-rights lawsuits that push for DNA testing of crime-scene evidence, thanks to this U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Florida: Bipartisan shift away from Mandatory Minimums
Florida legislators from traditionally opposing parties have come together to sponsor two bills that would end mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders.

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