There is good news about the condition of America’s criminal justice system. Both conservatives and liberals are agreeing that the time has come to revamp the prison system. Everyone is on the same page about how mass incarceration is costing the country too much money. For some reason when an out of control problem hits people’s pocketbooks, collaboration happens. When incarcerating a prisoner for a year reaches the same cost as student tuition at Harvard University, it is time to make a change.
Realization that American prisons are being financed to perpetuate social insufficiency, recidivism, and desperateness has caused legislation to reconsider the high cost of incarceration. The result is crime rates have decreased and the public is beginning to support non-violent offender reform as opposed to long-term prison sentences.
Over the last three years prison doors have been shutting on the outside instead of the inside. The prison population is not large enough to fill America’s prisons and they are gradually going out of business. From academics, progressive law enforcement groups, innovative rehabilitation programs and victim crime advocates to even fundamentalists, all have been struggling to repair our broken justice system, which has turned into a perpetual misery machine.
America’s mass incarceration dilemma has forced society to take a long hard look at what can be done to transform criminals into productive citizens.
Even states that use punitive law-and-order approaches in an attempt to conquer crime are now desperate enough to embrace tolerant rehabilitation programs once thought of as bleeding heart liberalism alternatives only a few years ago.
SAN FRANCISCO — A state Assembly committee gathered ideas from Bay Area law enforcement and community representatives at a hearing in San Francisco Wednesday on how to help people avoid going to prison and avoid going back.
The purpose of the Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment session was to obtain information that could shape legislation aimed at reducing prison and jail overcrowding and increasing rehabilitation, according to committee co-chair Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
“I think we have a long way to go. When you have a (statewide) recidivism rate of 70 to 30, we know there’s a lot more to do,” Ammiano said after the hearing at the State Building.
The San Francisco hearing was one of a series the committee is holding around California on various prison issues.
Programs described by local experts included diversion projects, alternative community courts, gang ceasefire efforts and services for released prisoners making the transition back to their communities.
Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told the committee that such programs make sense not only morally but economically as well.
By John Gramlich, CQ Roll Call
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Wednesday that she is conflicted about legislation to scale back mandatory minimum sentencing laws, signaling that lawmakers in both parties are wary of the effort ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in December.
Feinstein, the second-highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, said in an interview that she is “not comfortable” with legislation that would reduce criminal penalties for some offenders, even though Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has strongly urged the panel to act on the issue.
“We’ve been wrestling with it,” Feinstein said. “For me right now, it’s not an easy question.”
The Judiciary Committee is expected to meet after the Thanksgiving recess to mark up four bills related to the federal prison system, including two that would effectively reduce criminal sentences and two that would allow some prisoners to earn earlier releases if they participate in rehabilitation programs. All four bills are aimed at curbing the rapid growth in the number of federal inmates.
By Annette Sommers
Tangipahoa Parish officially acknowledged that voters shot down a proposed tax Tuesday which would have funded a new parish jail. The half-cent sales tax was expected to bring in $8.67 million a year to make more space for incoming inmates.
That makes total sense. Let’s tax our citizens so we can build a new jail for criminals instead of implementing a tax to help relieve our education crisis, which would help combat crimes in the first place.
Did Tangipahoa Parish really think its residents would fall for that?
While the people of Tangipahoa shot down the proposal for a jail tax, they approved the renewal of a tax that helps fund their parish library. A smart move credited to voters.
But it won’t be long before other parishes try to pull what Tangipahoa did because of money. Sheriffs are paid $24.39 a day on average, per inmate. They benefit from higher incarceration rates.
Let me repeat that. According to research done by the Department of Corrections, the more people who are in jail, the more sheriffs get paid. This is happening in Baton Rouge just as much as Tangipahoa, and unless people open their eyes to this corruption, it’s bound to continue.
By Nicole D. Porter, The Sentencing Project
For more than forty years, the correctional system has been dominated by growth. In 1969, the crime rate was 3,680 per 100,000 population and the incarceration rate was 97 state and federal prisoners per 100,000 population. Today the crime rate is slightly lower at 3,667 per 100,000 population but the incarceration rate is five times higher, at 492 per 100,000. The culture of punishment, in part driven by political expediency with “tough-on-crime” policies marketed as the solution to “fear of crime,” has been aggressively implemented at every stage of the criminal justice process: arresting, charging, sentencing, confining, releasing and supervising.
Today, there is general agreement that this vast expansion of the criminal justice system and the seven million people currently under U.S. correctional control did not occur by accident, but as the result of deliberate policy choices that impose intentionally punitive sentences that have increased both the numbers of people entering the system and how long they remain there.
The destructive effects of mass incarceration are visited disproportionately upon individuals and communities of color. Justice Reinvestment was conceived as part of the solution to this problem. Justice Reinvestment originated as an ambitious strategy to reduce reliance on incarceration and repair the harm to individuals and communities through reinvestment in neighborhoods with high concentrations of residents in the criminal justice system.
The initial purpose of Justice Reinvestment was to make state government accountable to impoverished communities – mostly (though not exclusively) black and Latino – where the burden of punishment and incarceration has been the heaviest. These already disadvantaged neighborhoods were being driven deeper into perpetual economic divestment, social isolation, political disenfranchisement and physical distress by the coercive, downward mobility caused by locally concentrated pockets of incarceration and the forced migration of residents to and from prison. The intent was to reduce corrections populations and budgets, thereby generating savings for the purpose of reinvesting in high incarceration communities to make them safer, stronger, more prosperous and equitable.