Monday, September 24, 2012

'Prison Break: Budget Crises Drive Reform, But Private Jails Press On'

The title of this post is the headline of an extensive American Bar Association Journal article which features Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and other national opinion leaders on corrections topics which will be familiar to Grits readers. The article closes on this (perhaps overly) optimistic note:
Few think the lock-’em-up approach is sustainable for much longer. The incarceration reform movement seems inexorable, despite concerns that if the economy continues to stall, U.S. legal systems will find more reasons and ways to put people behind bars—or that if flush times return, we will be able to afford ever-growing prison populations.

But no matter how much the economy might recover, battles will only increase over funding for education, crumbling infrastructure, various entitlement programs, outlays for medical care and more on a list of social priorities likely to eclipse the need to lock up those with whom we might be angry, but who otherwise don’t pose much threat.

“These things are enormously expensive and people care about them a great deal,” says Clear, the Rutgers criminology dean. “It used to be that in surveys of what people are concerned about, crime would be No. 1, 2 or 3. Now it’s not in the top 10, and hasn’t been for 15 years.

“I believe this change will have some legs,” Clear says. He’s been nudging it for three decades and is more hopeful than some colleagues. “History will show that the mass incarceration era has ended.”

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