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March 9, 2018

"Can We Wait 75 Years to Cut the Prison Population in Half?"

The title of this post is the title of this short "Policy Brief" from The Sentencing Project.  Here is how it starts and concludes:

The U.S. prison population grew by more than 600% between 1973 and 2009 — from 200,000 people to 1.6 million.  Tough-on-crime policies expanded the number of imprisoned people even while crime rates plunged to 40% below their levels in the 1990s.  In recent years, policymakers and criminal justice professionals have implemented reforms to correct the punitive excesses of the past.  By yearend 2016 the number of people held in U.S. prisons had declined by 6% since a 2009 peak, and crime rates have continued to decline.

But the overall impact of reforms has been quite modest. With 1.5 million people in prison in 2016, the prison population remains larger than the total population of 11 states.3 If states and the federal government maintain their recent pace of decarceration, it will take 75 years — until 2093 — to cut the U.S. prison population by 50%.  Expediting the end of mass incarceration will require accelerating the end of the Drug War and scaling back sentences for serious crimes....

Just as mass incarceration was developed primarily as a result of changes in policy, not crime rates, so too has decarceration reflected changes in both policy and practice.  These have included such measures as drug policy sentencing reforms, reduced admissions to prison for technical parole violations, and diversion options for persons convicted of lower-level property and drug crimes.

The movement to end mass incarceration not only faces political reluctance to meaningfully reduce the U.S. prison population, it has also had to address renewed calls to further expand the prison population, including: increasing prison terms for immigration law violations, reversals of Obama-era reforms in federal sentencing, and punitive responses to the opioid crisis.  While defending the progress made in recent years, we must also strive for criminal justice reforms bold enough to tackle mass incarceration.

March 9, 2018 at 09:45 AM | Permalink


Calm down. Criminals will become rare as hen's teeth from the opioid overdose epidemic. See what happens in 5 years. Not only will they have passed away, they will have a lower fecundity. The drop in crime will be exponential, not additive.

The lawyer will then go after everyone to keep his job. All middle class people commit 3 felonies a day. I anticipate an attempt to maintain their jobs that way, prosecuting everyone. The middle class will howl. Politicians will respond, and restrain these Inquisition style prosecutions.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 9, 2018 10:08:44 AM

There is under punishment of internet crime, virtually immunized by the profession. There is identity theft to get money. That is in the millions. There is identity theft to misused on social media, selling followers. That violation is in the billions.

I like the death penalty for unauthorized hacking. It is unknown how much hacking profit is going into opiate addictions, thus self limiting. That would be a better place to go for prosecutors. It is better than the pretextual prosecution of middle class people for regulatory crimes, in violation of regulatory quackery, itself a fraud and an crime by the lawyer profession.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 9, 2018 10:13:33 AM

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