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Eisen, Lauren-Brooke

"Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. prison population — 576,000 people — are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The first-of-its-kind analysis provides a blueprint for how the country can drastically cut its prison population while still keeping crime rates near historic lows."


Sections cover: the current prison population; time served in prison today; ending prison for lower-level crimes; reducing time served for other crimes; and recommendations and cost savings.

Cover image for How many Americans are Unnecessarily Incarcerated

If you are thinking of implementing pay-for-stay, then you need to read this article. "With the explosive correctional growth, state correctional costs have skyrocketed in the last four decades. While it is understandable that governments would look to recoup these costs, advocates and scholars have long argued that it represents bad policy. However, less work has been done to challenge the legality of this practice, perhaps because courts have historically been so unfriendly to these types of challenges. This essay suggests that exploring the constitutional implications of charging inmates for goods, services, and even their stay behind bars could help to build the case for policy change around the nation. Specifically, legal academics could provide persuasive support for this area of advocacy by reexamining the legality of the current systems of fees and fines under the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. Even if courts continue to strike down these legal arguments, policymakers may finally take heed of such compelling evidence that this practice may potentially violate the U.S. Constitution" (p. 1). This article is divided into these parts: "introduction"; "History of Inmate Fees"--history of inmate fees and pay-to-stay practices, rationales for implementing inmate fees, types of pay-to-stay, and policy objections; "Toward a New Litigation Strategy"—Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment, forfeiture cases examined under the Excessive Fines Clause, the seminal constitutional case in jail fee jurisprudence being Tillman v. Lebanon County Correctional Facility, and further litigation inquiries; and conclusion.

Paying for Your Time: How Charging Inmates Fees Behind Bars May Violate the Excessive Fines Clause Cover

“As the size and cost of jails and prisons have grown, so too has the awareness that public investment in incarceration has not yielded the expected return on public safety. Today, in the United States, an opportunity exists to reexamine the wisdom of our reliance on institutional corrections—incarceration in prisons or jails—and to reconsider the role of community-based corrections, which encompasses probation, parole, and pretrial supervision … States and counties are moving to shift the burden from institutional to community corrections, sending greater numbers of offenders to supervision agencies with heightened expectations of success but often without the additional resources necessary to do the job that is being asked of them … There is considerable variability within and across states in the way community corrections is organized and financed. Agency responsibilities and accountability also differ” (p. 2). Since this report explains what the current state of and emerging strategies for community corrections, anyone working to strengthen the field or seeking to understand the potential of community corrections to reduce the recidivism of offenders should read this report. Sections cover: what community corrections is; its current state; emerging best practices; current practices that need more research; recent policy changes in community corrections; and moving forward—recommendations to the field.

The Potential of Community Corrections Cover

This report "examines one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred, by reviewing more than 40 years of data from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000. More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population. The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique, also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it" (website). This report is divided into two parts following an executive summary. Part I—State-Level Analysis of Crime: criminal justice policies—increased incarceration, increased police numbers, use of the death penalty, and enactment of right-to-carry gun laws; economic factors—unemployment, growth in income, inflation, and consumer confidence; and social and environmental factors—decreased alcohol consumption, aging population, decreased crack use, legalization of abortion, and decreased lead in gasoline. Part II—City-Level Analysis of Crime: policing—introduction of CompStat.

What Caused the Crime Decline? Cover
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