On December 9, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released a compelling report about the disturbing state of our criminal justice system. 39% of the current prison population is locked up with very little public safety reason for their incarceration. This statistic is important because the United States has the most inmates and prisons in the world.
The Brennan report found that almost 25% of our inmate population ( 364,000) are non-violent inmates. They are low level offender’s cases which should be resolved by treatment, community service, or probation, instead of incarceration. Another 212,000 inmates (14%) have already been imprisoned for many years for more serious crimes and because of their advanced years can be safely set free.
From 1970–2,010, our prison population increased dramatically from under five hundred thousand to almost 2.3 million prisoners in 2010, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Factors; such as the launching of the drug war policy to combat rising crime, the incarceration of the mentally ill– due to the closing of mental health care hospitals in local communities, new criminal laws, the bias of our justice system toward minorities, and draconian sentencing contributed to our mass incarceration crisis.
During the last 15 years, several states have reduced their prison population and decreased their crime rate at the same time. New Jersey and New York reduced their prison populations by almost 30%, while reducing their crime rate. Texas decreased imprisonment and crime by more than 20% during the same period.
This reduction was partly achieved by not locking up nonviolent offenders. Drug treatment programs and community service were given as alternatives to prison sentences.
Trump’s appointment of Senator Sessions as attorney general is a signal that the Trump administration will not favor justice reform. We need to remember that he campaigned on “law and order,” and that “safety would be restored,’ despite decreasing crime rates and excessive prison populations.
The report revealed that releasing the 39%, approximately 500,000 individuals, would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.
Will the Trump administration ignore the 39%–?
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com