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Breaking the Addiction to Incarceration: Weekly Highlights

A pair of hands in handcuffs
A pair of hands in handcuffs
Rebecca McCray,
Former Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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July 1, 2011

Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it’s ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we’ll feature our some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we’ve spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks

End the War on Drugs
We are excited to announce the launch of our new war on drugs landing page, which collects all of our blogs from this month’s 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration. Be sure to check out the new video from comedian Elon James White.

Lower Crack Sentences to Apply Retroactively
This week, the United States Sentencing Commission took an important step toward rectifying our racially unjust Federal crack cocaine sentencing scheme. The Commission voted to retroactively apply 2010’s Fair Sentencing Act to those with lengthy crack-cocaine sentences. This move could affect the sentences of over 12,000 inmates.

Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, has worked on this issue for almost 20 years. She blogged her thoughts on this landmark vote yesterday.

High-security California Prisoners Start Hunger Strike
Approximately 100 prisoners at California’s maximum security Pelican State Bay prison began their indefinite hunger strike today in protest of the inhumane conditions of their imprisonment. Their strike addresses five core demands, which include providing adequate and nutritious food. They are also asking that the prison comply with the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.

California given strict deadline to reduce prison population
The deadline is official: California must reduce its exorbitant prison population by 37,000 in two years. Despite suggestions for some flexibility by the United State Supreme Court, a panel of three federal judges say the population must be reduced by June 27, 2013.

A Safety Valve for Inmates, the Arts, Fades in California
Budget cuts across the country have forced lawmakers to reconsider the cash poured into our prison system, which has in many cases been a promising opportunity for much-needed reform. But along with those reforms comes the end of many programs for inmates that some say reduce recidivism rates and can cause meaningful changes in behavior.

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