Cutting Prison Numbers In Half Means Fewer Violent Offenders Behind Bars


Several criminal justice reform organizations agree on a goal of reducing prison population by 50 percent in the next 10 to 15 years. A 50 percent reduction would mean changing sentencing and parole rules to cut the net population by more than 1 million people, either by releasing current inmates or by not incarcerating future offenders, says The Marshall Project. Left mostly unsaid is that achieving the goal of this “Cut50” movement would entail touching a third-rail in criminal justice reform. Sentencing would have to change not only for non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offender criminals but also for some offenders convicted of violent crimes.

Changes could include shorter sentences; making parole easier; deciding that probation or community service are more appropriate than prison for entire classes of crimes; diverting more suspects to mental illness r addiction treatment; and redefining what offenses are considered violent in the first place. Only 4 percent of state inmates are there for drug possession. Some 12 percent are incarcerated for drug sales, manufacturing, or trafficking. Eleven percent are there for public order offenses such as prostitution or drunk driving, and 19 percent for property crimes. That leaves a 54 percent who are incarcerated for violent crimes.


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