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Maintaining Safety While Being Fiscally Responsible

The last several decades have seen a massive government expansion in crime. Over-criminalization has expanded state and federal prisons, causes a burden to taxpayers and a concerning cycle of recidivism. Because states can no longer finance this overkill response to low-level non-violent offenses, it is fiscally necessary that they reduce sentences. To accomplish this while maintaining safety for citizens, reentry programs, vocational training and drug-treatment programs are needed to ensure lower recidivism. This is particularly important for juveniles for which interventions are much more effective, saving taxpayer dollars in the future. To accomplish all of this for citizens states and municipalities are key for effective implementation.

The “get tough on crime” movement, emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to enormous increases in drug arrests, longer prison sentences with mandatory minimums, more punitive juvenile justice sentencing and greater incarceration of juveniles, low-income individuals and people of color.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), about 6.98 million people were under some form of adult correctional supervision in the U.S. at yearend, 2011. This is the equivalent of about 1 in 34 adults – or about 2.9 percent of the adult population – in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

By the end of 2012, there were around 1.35 million people incarcerated in state prisons, 217,800 in federal prisons and 744,500 in local jails. From 1998 to 2009, the state cost of mass incarceration of criminals increased from $12 billion to $52 billion per year.

Today, there is movement to reform the criminal justice system and reverse the trend of mass incarceration of nonviolent and drug related offenders. Federal, state and local leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce the costs of criminal justice and corrections by keeping low-risk, nonviolent, drug involved offenders out of prison or jail, while still holding them accountable and ensuring the safety of our communities.

The Administration, Congress and many states are enacting new policies to slow the growth of prison populations and even downsizing corrections systems to save hundreds of millions of dollars.

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