Sure we’re locking up too many people these days, but it sure has reduced crime, and it’s not all just low level drug offenders. It’s violent offenders and folks who made a bad decision or a mistake all mixed together.
Clearly we need to stop sending all drug offender up the river, but they only account for 20% of the prison population. What about the 80%?
We really need a criminal justice system that’s better at sorting out low level offenders and sending them to diversionary, yet still punitive programs. We also need to sort the mentally ill offenders and get them treatment before locking them away.
Nor can we continue our extraordinary reliance on incarceration. The next evolution in criminal justice policy must be to reform our correctional system, and we must start by restoring rehabilitation as a core goal. Maybe prisons can someday accomplish that goal, but the ones that we have today do not. Instead, we should make much greater use of parole, halfway houses and other forms of supervised release. We also need to devote far greater resources to mental health services. By some estimates, more than 20 percent of inmates have a recent history of mental illness.
Unlocking the Truth About the Clinton Crime Bill http://nyti.ms/1WkbRqk