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.
ACLU Report Finds States Could Save Millions by Releasing Low-Risk Elderly Prisoners
Elderly prisoners are twice as expensive to incarcerate as the average prisoner and pose little danger to society, yet the population of elderly prisoners in the United States is exploding. Our extreme sentencing policies and a growing number of life sentences have effectively turned many of our correctional facilities into veritable nursing homes — and taxpayers are paying for it.
Louisiana Governor Signs Bill Allowing DAs to Ignore Mandatory Minimums
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill that increases prosecutorial discretion so that district attorneys can tailor appropriate punishments according to the circumstances of the crime for non-violent, non-sex offense offenses. It’s the sixth piece of criminal justice reform legislation signed this session.
Ohio Reentry Bill Nears Passage
The Ohio House this week unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the number of post-prison and post-conviction sanctions offenders face, such as being barred from holding a commercial driver’s license or other occupational licenses.
Pennsylvania Justice Reform Bill Passes House Unanimously
The bill will divert nonviolent offenders from prison to alternative programs, establish a comprehensive program to reduce recidivism and ensure successful reentry, and provide for swift, predictable and immediate sanctions on offenders who violate their probation.
Rhode Island Governor Chafee Signs Law Decriminalizing of Small Amounts of Marijuana
The law, which takes effect April 1, 2013, means that possessing an ounce or less will become a civil violation with a $150 fine, akin to a ticket. It also states that three such violations within 18 months would be a misdemeanor with larger fines and/or prison.