39% of Prisoners Should Not Be in Prison

For the past year, President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on “law and order,” stating at the Republican National Convention that under a Trump presidency, “safety would be restored.” His administration, with Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, is likely to be unfriendly on criminal justice. However, Trump and his ilk are outliers. There is strong trans-partisan agreement, among politicians, law enforcement, advocates and researchers that there are simply too many people in prison.

Crime exploded in the 1980s and 90s. Officials responded with harsh sentencing laws that had little impact and ironically may have made things worse. Now that crime is down, we need to change our approach. Instead of doubling down on the failed draconian policies of the past, based on vengeance, we have an opportunity to rethink how America punishes people who break the law and ground those decisions in what we know works.

With 2.2 million people in prison, mass incarceration is the greatest moral and racial injustice of our time. We need bold solutions to solve this crisis, but few systemic solutions exist.

For the past three years, we led a team of criminologists, lawyers, and statistical researchers to analyze criminal codes, convictions, and sentences to help pave a way forward. This week, we released our findings in a new report, How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?

We found that approximately 39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale. And they can be released, significantly and safely cutting our prison population.

How did we get to this number? First, many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, we found that 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation. Second, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free.

Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.

Republicans and Democrats agree that America’s experiment in mass incarceration has failed. Our research-driven recommendations aim to help rethink sentencing to make our justice system better by decreasing crime and recidivism, reducing the disproportionate impact on communities of color, and preserving the hard-won declines in crime over the last 20 years.

How We Got Here

There was a period in America where crime dominated the headlines. In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon ran a campaign commercial where a series of still photos of angry protesters and burning buildings appeared over a soundtrack of a snare drum and dissonant piano chords. “Let us recognize that the first civil right of every American is to be free from domestic violence,” Nixon intoned. “So I pledge to you, we shall have order in the United States.” To a large extent, what average Americans saw on their television screens squared with their own experiences. From 1960 to 1980, violent crime soared 270%, peaking at 758 violent offenses per 100,000 people in 1991. African American and Latino communities bore the brunt of this crime rise. By the late 1970s, people of color were crime victims at a rate 24% higher than white Americans.

For full story visit: http://time.com/4596081/incarceration-report/?utm_source=reddit.com