Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population

By · Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Read Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population, a new report published by the JFA Institute (November 19, 2007).

This report is a wonderful testimony for change and much-needed reform and relief in America’s prison system.


Report Says U.S. Prison System In Need of Major Change

Criminology experts and practitioners gathered today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to announce the release of Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population, a report calling for wholesale criminal justice reform.

“Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long,” said James Austin, president of the JFA Institute and report co-author. He added that the United States is “clearly overusing” the prison system and many of those incarcerated would better benefit from alternative forms of punishment. The rate of imprisonment is “clearly is not proportional to the nature of the crime.”

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Racial Disparity, Felony Disenfranchisement, Drug Policy, Women in the Justice System, Collateral Consequences

The report released by the JFA Institute, is authored by nine experts in the criminal justice field including two who were formerly incarcerated including John Irwin, professor emeritus, San Francisco State University. The report finds that the nation’s prison sentences are too long, prison conditions are unacceptable and the nation is losing money by continuing to overuse prisons.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), whose comments were taped and presented during the press conference, said that “prison growth has less to do with crime than it does with how we respond to crime.” He committed himself to working on a solution and thanked The Sentencing Project and its executive director, Marc Mauer, for working to educate policymakers and the public on criminal justice issues.

Four recommendations are offered in the report:

“The report is very timely and warrants the reading of every American and politician,” said Devon Brown, director of the Washington, D.C. Department of Corrections. “We must have a multifaceted approach toward the reduction of the prison population.”

“The current way we’re approaching this issue is not working,” said Christy A. Visher, principal research associate at the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “We need to be doing something different.” She added that combating recidivism is the best way to address the problem around incarceration. (From www.sentencingproject.org)

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