Ending 50 Years of Mass Incarceration: Urgent Reform Needed to Protect Future Generations
” Fifty years since the onset of mass incarceration, and despite recent downsizing of most state prison populations, the pace of decarceration is insufficient to undo the decades of unrelenting growth.”
As always, The Sentencing Project is clear, precise, and accurate in their understanding, reporting, and research of our incarceration system in The United States.
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Meaningful Decarceration Requires Reforms for Extreme Sentences
The United States has made only modest progress toward ending mass incarceration amidst a dramatic crime drop. By year end 2019, crimes reported to the police had plummeted to half of their 1990s level—just as they did in many other countries that did not increase imprisonment levels18 (see Figure 4). But U.S. imprisonment levels continued to increase for nearly two decades while crime rates declined, and have since declined only modestly. In 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, violent crime rates increased—with homicides spiking—while property crimes continued their decline.19 In 2021, homicide increased again, but at a slower rate, while other violent crimes decreased overall, as did property crimes.20 Policymakers must now effectively respond to this uptick in lethal violence through evidence-based responses,21 while correcting the counterproductive, costly, and cruel responses of the past. Expediting the end of mass incarceration requires reducing prison admissions and scaling back sentences for both those entering prisons and those already there.