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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Former Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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April 5, 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.

Alabama: Prison bills may save state $106 million over 5 years
“Reinvestment” is the word for Alabama lawmakers, who are considering a package of sentencing and corrections reform bills that would reduce prison populations, then channels the savings into public safety efforts.

Louisiana: Protest targets plan to sell or privatize state prisons
Crowds gathered in protest last week as Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration toys with the idea of selling state prisons to private corporations. Not only is the lack of transparency that accompanies prison privatization an issue – many prison employees will be out of work if Gov. Jindal sees these plans through.

Mississippi: ACLU Report ranks Mississippi incarceration rate as 2nd in nation
The new report from ACLU and Justice Strategies says Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate of any state in the country. The ACLU of Mississippi is calling for reforms in the state’s system of drug enforcement. Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, had about 25 people join her on the South Capitol steps to outline some of the findings about incarceration nationally and in Mississippi in particular. Our press release for Numbers Game: The Vicious Cycle of Incarceration in Mississippi can be found here, and we blogged about the report’s release here.

Kansas: Ex-cons get help keeping out of crime and on the job
A group of probation officers, lawyers and service providers in Kansas are rounding out the first year of facilitating a re-entry program for probationers that rewards good behavior with reduced probation time.

Obama Drops Juvenile Justice Funding Overhaul Plan
The Obama administration has dropped its controversial proposal to overhaul federal juvenile justice funding, thanks in part to a sign-on letter organized by the ACLU. If enacted, these proposed changes would have undermined the historic purpose and intent of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

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