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San Francisco Called a Model for Ending Mass Incarceration

San Francisco has rapidly reduced its jail and prison populations with a series of “best practices” innovations that have built on California's well-publicized legislative reforms enacted since 2009, according to a research study released today. The study adds its success could serve as a model for the rest of the United States. In the study, entitled “Eliminating Mass Incarceration: How San Francisco Did It,” James Austin of the JFA Institute reports that the combined jail and prison rate of incarceration […]


Sentencing Reform: A Page From the Old Playbook?

It has been a busy month so far for federal criminal justice reform. On October 1, the Senate unveiled the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. On October 8, the House Sentencing Reform Act was introduced. The bills share much in common and have been portrayed as “comprehensive,” “extensive,” “landmark legislation,” a “game-changer,” and “the most important federal criminal justice overhaul in a generation.” But there are many questions about the mechanics of this legislation, as well as questions […]


Sentencing Bill: Another Step Toward Federal Prison Reform

Last Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Judiciary Committee chairman, described as “the biggest criminal justice reform in a generation.” The legislation is aimed at focusing costly correctional resources on serious offenders and scaling back the federal prison system's explosive growth over the past three decades. [See Table 1 Below] The support of Chairman Grassley, along with the other Senate co-sponsors, is a strong […]


Ten Ways to Reform America's Prisons

In every age and as long as there have been prisons, there have been prison reformers. And for centuries people have been asking: why prisons, do we need them? Who do we want imprisoned and for how long? What should the conditions of imprisonment be? In a lecture delivered to the Center for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame October 8, former NYC Correction Commissioner Martin F. Horn lays out his personal experiences and observations from a career […]


Can We Reduce The Prison Population By 25%?

A report we recently co-authored for The Sentencing Project documented that three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – have led the nation in recent years by reducing their prison populations by about 25%. New York and New Jersey achieved a 26% reduction from 1999 to 2012, and California experienced a 23% decline from 2006 to 2012. While some proponents of continued high rates of incarceration warn of the prospect of a “crime wave” if populations are reduced, […]


Three States Lead Nation in Reducing Prison Populations and Crime

New York, New Jersey and California led the nation in reducing prison population during the last decade, while also experiencing substantial declines in crime, according to a report released today by The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group. Between 1999 and 2012, prison populations in New York and New Jersey dropped by 26 percent, while the nationwide state prison population rose 10 percent. California reduced its prison population by 23 percent between 2006 and 2012, compared with a 1 percent decline […]


U.S. Conservatives: We’re Leading Criminal Justice Reform

In a surprise turnaround, the American right has declared that it is leading the nation’s criminal justice reform efforts. Dozens of conservatives gathered yesterday in Washington, D.C., to assert that they are spearheading changes in state laws that will bring down the prison population, simultaneously saving tax money and bringing down the recidivism rate. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the session a “turning point,” saying that conservatives now realize that their drive in the 1980s and 1990s for long […]


Reports Highlight Wave of Prison Closures

One in three states closed prisons between 2011 and 2013, according to two new reports released today by The Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization. Two reports document “the trend of states downsizing prison systems and adopting sentencing policy reforms,” according to a press release. The trend included a reduction of 37,000 beds nationwide. Six states accounted for a reduction of 11,000 beds in 2013 alone. Researchers estimate the cost savings of $97 million for the 2013 closings. They attribute the […]


Jailing the Mentally Ill

By Jenn Ackerman Since the 1960s, increasing numbers of mentally ill individuals who have committed offenses or are regarded as dangers to society are being housed in prisons and jails across the U.S.—in part because of funding cutbacks. In the process, jails and prisons have become by default the nation's largest mental health institutions, leaving many individuals in facilities that are ill-equipped to treat them, and with nowhere else to go to receive the treatment they need. According to a […]