ACLU Sees Good News and Bad News in Criminal Justice in 2011


It was a bad news/good news year for criminal justice in America, according to an end-of-year account by the ACLU. The good news included these points: the number of adults behind bars, on probation, or on parole in the U.S. declined 1.3% in 2010, the second consecutive year of decline; half of all state departments of corrections reported decreases in their prison population during 2010; budget shortfalls prompted many states to realize that alternatives to incarceration can make us safer, cost less money, and keep communities more whole, and the Fair Sentencing Act gave relief to many of those convicted under racially slanted laws governing crack cocaine offenses.

The bad news: One in 33 American adults is under correctional supervision in the U.S.; President Nixon’s War on Drugs rages on, 40 years alter; some state prison populations continue to increase, including Texas and Arkansas; racial disparities in the justice system remain staggering, with one in every 15 African-American males over 18 incarcerated, and states are increasingly looking to the private firms to run their prisons as a way to cut costs and cut corners, even though private prisons serve only their own interests.

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