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U.S.: Home to 30% of the World's Incarcerated Women

Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world’s female population, it accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women, according to a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative. Using 2010 U.S. Census data, the report calculated incarceration rates for women in each state and placed them in a global context, comparing the rates of U.S. states with those of countries around the world. Twenty-five U.S. states held the top positions in the data. Incarceration data for each […]

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Prison and Family: How to Bridge the Distance

When it comes to visiting a loved one in state prison, distance is a deterrent for family members, according to a study released Tuesday by the Prison Policy Initiative. While about 50 percent of inmates who were incarcerated within 50 miles of home had received a visit within the past month, that number decreased to 25.9 percent for inmates living between 100 and 500 miles from home, and to 14.5 percent for inmates living even farther from relatives. “Recognizing that […]

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The Path to Prison: Can It Be Blocked?

Approximately one-third of inmates serving first-time prison sentences in New York had repeated contact with the criminal justice system in the 10 years preceding their incarceration—suggesting the system had potential opportunities to curtail their criminal activity via diversion programs—according to a study published in the American Society of Criminology journal Criminology & Public Policy. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the inmates had had very little contact with the system prior to incarceration. The authors of “Pathways to Prison in […]

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'I Will Kill You and Dad'

On Jan. 23, 2012, Michael McDaniel awoke at 5 a.m. in his family’s poolroom and was overcome by misery on a scale that was unique even for him. He began to cry. Michael was 30 years old and lived with his parents and grandmother in a sprawling, cedar-planked home on the wooded fringes of the Oley Valley, just east of Reading [PA]. That night, like many others in recent years, Michael had spent sitting on a worn recliner in the […]

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The “Broken” Justice System for the Mentally Ill

In mid-September, three California corrections officers were charged with beating a mentally ill inmate to death. Judge Stephen Manley, who runs Santa Clara County’s Mental Health Treatment Court and is on a commission investigating the case, said in an interview with KQED's Scott Shafer that the lack of training for first responders in how to deal with mentally troubled offenders is “one of the greatest problems” facing the U.S. justice system. Such specialized training for corrections officers, judges and court […]

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Incarceration: An Invisible Tax On The Poor?

Adding a heavy financial burden to people living in poverty, the states and the federal government exact large sums from the families and friends of incarcerated individuals through fees on prison services, such as money transfers and telephone calls, according to an article in the journal Perspectives on Politics, published by the American Political Science Association. In “Taxing the Poor: Incarceration, Poverty Governance, and the Seizure of Family Resources,” authors Mary Fainsod Katzenstein and Maureen R. Waller argue that the […]

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U.S. Overall Prison Population Declines Slightly

The nation’s inmate count declined one percent last year, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. The federal prison system accounted for about one-third of the decrease, amid a drive to reduce the sentence lengths for some drug offenders. Overall, there were 1,561,500 prisoners at the end of 2014. With approximately 745,000 people also held in local jails as of midyear 2014, the national total behind bars is about 2.3 million—making the U.S. the world leader in incarceration. Many […]

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From Patients to Prisoners

In April, after seven years of heartache, broken windows, and phone calls from the police, Jennifer and Ron Wilt decided it was finally time to call it quits on a project they had informally dubbed “turn our son into a functional adult.” By that point it was clear to the Camp Hill, PA couple that Jared Winters, their bipolar 24-year-old, couldn’t survive on his own. Although he was intensely social, his strange and erratic behavior had led to his ouster […]

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Report: Federal Drug Sentence Length Up 36 Percent Since 1980

The length of prison sentences given to federal drug offenders grew 36 percent in the last three decades after laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s established mandatory minimum sentences and limited parole, according to a report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Among other findings, the report shows an increase in the average sentences given to drug offenders and a decrease in the number of drug offenders who received probation. The average sentence given to a drug offender grew […]

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PREA at a Crossroads

In an apparent reversal of position, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said earlier this year that his state would comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)—but his assurance came with a catch, which advocates say could erode the federal government's “zero tolerance” policy on sexual assaults in correctional facilities. Abbott wrote in an annual PREA compliance report, filed May 15 to the Attorney General, that Texas would implement PREA standards “wherever feasible.” His predecessor, Gov. Rick Perry had famously rejected […]