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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 28, 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.

Michigan: Is sending juveniles to prison for life constitutional? Judge hears arguments
Federal Judge Corbett O’Meara heard arguments last week in opposition to the state’s practice of sentencing kids as young as 14 to life in prison without parole. Ann Arbor attorney Deborah La Belle argued on behalf of the ACLU and nine prisoners currently serving life sentences on murder convictions they received as juveniles. Learn more about Juvenile Life Without Parole >>

New York: 7 year-old special-ed student handcuffed at Queens school after Easter egg tantrum
Perhaps lending new and even more absurd meaning to the concept of “over-criminalization,” police in Queens handcuffed a 7-year-old at his school after an emotional outburst.

New York: Older inmate population grows, puts strain on system
Excessively strict sentencing guidelines contributed to the explosive growth of our nation’s prison population, and an elderly inmate population is a natural by-product of those sentences. As New York’s prison population ages rapidly, the system is feeling the strain of rising health care costs.

Virginia: Reducing recidivism
In response to a recent article praising Virginia’s low rate of recidivism, this editorial suggests that before we commend the state’s “success,” we ought to carefully examine what these new statistics are measuring and what they mean in terms of public safety.

Judges See Sentencing Injustice, but the Calendar Disagrees
The Fair Sentencing Act debate rages on in this column, which is focused on the clash between old and new law in its inconsistent application.

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