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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

Rebecca McCray,
Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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October 24, 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.

Growing prison populations hinder budget cuts
Efforts made by states to cut spending on prisons are complicated by the vast number of prisoners serving life sentences without possibility of parole. Lawmakers are increasingly being forced to reconsider such harsh sentencing schemes in light of their costly nature.

Balanced Justice: Cost-Benefit Analysis and Criminal Justice Policy
This new report examines the importance of economic analysis on criminal justice policies, revealing that such analyses are especially important in times of economic crisis.

California Medical Association calls for legalization of marijuana
Last Friday, the California Medical Association publicly announced support for the legalization of marijuana, surprising and outraging some community members. Dr. Donald Lyman, a Sacramento physician who helped write their policy, pointed to the devastating consequences of criminalization on families, racial minorities, and state budgets in support of his decision. The CMA’s stance may not be so far from most Americans, 50 percent of whom support legalization according to a new Gallup poll.

Why are women the fastest-growing prison population?
Women are the fastest-growing sub-group of our country’s massive prison population. The editors of a new book, Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons discuss the stories of some of these women.

Around the World, Young and Imprisoned
Photographer Lizzie Sadin spent more than ten years photographing children behind bars around the world, producing photos that hauntingly illuminate the varying state of systems of juvenile incarceration in over 11 countries.

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