Monday, February 22, 2016

Twenty states reduced prison populations more than Texas

Twenty states have reduced their prison populations by greater percentages (compared to peak levels) than has Texas, according to this analysis from the Sentencing Project. That confirms Grits' view that Texas' much-lauded 2007 de-incarceration reforms, which averted a projected new round of prison building, increasingly amount to small potatoes now that other states are taking on the issue. Plus, they're starting off with smaller prison systems than Texas (ours is the largest among states), while achieving reductions which are (in some cases much) larger.

Found the Sentencing Project, "Twelve states have produced double-digit declines within this period. Four states have reduced their prison populations by over 20%: New Jersey (31% since 1999), New York (28% since 1999), Rhode Island (25% since 2008), and California (22% since 2006, though partly offset by increasing jail use)."

Finally, Grits agreed completely with this observation: "Just as mass incarceration has developed primarily as a result of changes in policy, not crime rates, so too have declines reflected changes in both policy and practice. These have included such measures as drug policy sentencing reforms, reduced admissions of technical parole violators to prison, and diversion options for persons convicted of lower-level property and drug crimes."

Texas enacted a couple of minor but significant policy changes in 2015, after the period covered by the Sentencing Project analysis, which could inch prison populations downward a bit more: Increasing property thresholds for theft and allowing state jail inmates to earn "diligent participation" credits which can reduce their length of incarceration. But those are subtle, incremental changes. To reach double-digit reductions in incarceration rates, much less to join the states on top of that list, will require much more significant policy changes.

H/T: Sentencing Law and Policy.


Anonymous said...

Outside of a few computer courses, prison in the U.S. is about one thing, punishment and long incarceration and more punishment. Most offenders serve 3 to 4 times the sentence for the same offense as their peers in western Europe and many other nations.
Some of our allies have been known to hold Americans sought by our law enforcement rather than return them to a system they consider to be "barbaric". A very large and important study done in the early 1990's reflected that, approximately, one-half of the guards in federal prisons were mentally ill and the No. 1 concern of federal judges is prestige. A large meeting of jurists in Europe called the American Drug War "the most heinous application of law since the Holocaust".
Removing our moral responsibility for paying and caring for those we incarcerate in favor of distancing ourselves from our laws and judgement by allowing corrupt privatized prisons owned by the usual political families and insiders, is a sin against democracy, much like the lawbreaking, failure, and corruption that has come from so much privatizing of our armed forces.
After five years, many prisoners lose their minds, their teeth begin to fall out, and their bodies deteriorate from lack of vitamins and minerals. Most prisoners never see the night sky, never see a star. With some exceptions, prison food makes some prisoners constantly ill, particulary, older prisoners. In the end. more fragile men and women die. Some prisoners feel forced to eat canned fish and honey bought for half their meals, purchased from a commissary mostly supplied with sugary foods and other poison snack foods.

Our political and economic elites after having politically disenfranchised us, made the conscious choice to, also, economically disenfranchise us, creating historically infamous income and health disparities, world-record off shoring of jobs and industries, financialization of the economy under private Fed domination rather than a domestic resurrection of technical and public education within a multi-faceted small industrial and new sustainable agricultural society with millions of small business serving all with millions of citizens involved in a multi-trillion dollar, open-ended sustainable energy, food, rail, water capture and piping, roads and bridges and coastal and other preparations for the coming sea rise, along with overarching plans for shared projects throughout our hemisphere.
The latest statements by Trump about waterboarding and incarceration make him just more of the greater Human Filth that dominates so much of Amerca. I don't agree, but it is thought provoking that, recently, the famous French actor, Gerard Depardieu, called the United States "a nation of killers" Perhaps he was just talking about the Executive, Congress, Senate, State Department, the Judicial System, CIA, and Hillary Clinton and the other presidential contenders, sans Bernie Sanders. Let's hope so.

A comment from Pedernalis:

Anonymous said...

Prisons are an American disgrace. People die every day from medical neglect, substandard food which is nutritionally inadequate, beatings, solitary confinment, harassment by sick guards. "If the people running prisons know there’s a problem and do nothing about it, is that not manslaughter? Is that not depraved indifference? A person who should be alive is not — all because of the incompetence or apathy of prison administrators.

This isn’t an issue of who did what or who broke what law. Every American deserves decent health care. That includes our prisoners.

If we can’t say that much for the most vulnerable among us, we can’t expect any better for the rest of us."
AND IF WE CAN"T IMPROVE THE SYSTEM, we need to let low-level offenders go. THE MADNESS MUST STOP.

Anonymous said...

Important: "A very large and important study done in the early 1990's reflected that, approximately, one-half of the guards in federal prisons were mentally ill and the No. 1 concern of federal judges is prestige."
The system is broken.

Anonymous said...

For those guards and administrators who killed my most beloved one with cruelty and neglect: I hope a higher justice will take care of you all, I pray for your demise daily, I will never forgive you. And yes, the issue is political, ethical, societal, historical, financial... and anything you want it to be. For his family the issue is deeply personal. Therefore, I have no problem stating that I pray daily for karma to take effect upon you all: you know who you are, even if you justify your crimes with a bunch of rationalizations. Those on the inside are often less evil than those who guard them and of those evil ones who supervise and administrate the whole prison industrial complex. May you all perish in agony like my loved one did.
Consider me a troll.... for a just cause: expose some of you for what you really are - criminals guarding criminals and criminals supervising other criminals - your depraved and deliberate indifference, coupled with your silence or your sadism, makes you guilty of manslaughter.