The United States has 2.2 million people living behind prison bars, more than any other nation in the world. Our national incarceration rate is four to six times larger compared to other countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Georgia has one of the higher incarceration rates in the nation as 1,160 people are locked up for every 100,000 Georgians, amounting to 53,627 prison inmates, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Factors for mass incarceration in the U.S.
The ACLU and the Urban Institute initiated a national study looking for ways to cut state incarceration rates by half. The study found several factors are responsible for the nation’s massive prison population, including:
- Probation and parole officers sending people to jail or prison for minor rule violations, such as missing a curfew or not paying a fee or fine
- Needlessly long sentences, even for people who are ready to reenter society
- States with rigid sentencing requirements where people must serve 100% of their time with no opportunity to reduce sentences through good behavior or other programs
Blueprint would cut prison populations in half
The groups have unveiled an ambitious plan to reduce prison populations across the nation by 50% by the year 2025. The plan addresses three troublesome areas:
Racial disparities: Hold police and prosecutors accountable for their decisions on making arrests and filing charges, which is overwhelmingly stacked against people of color.
Overreliance on incarceration: Look for safe alternatives to long-term prison sentences for crimes involving violence. Restorative justice programs have cut recidivism rates while helping victims cope with crimes committed against them.
Mental health and substance abuse: People with mental illness are up to six times more likely to go to jail than people without disabilities. States must implement reforms to avoid imprisoning people who need mental health and drug treatment programs.
Plan would put fewer people behind bars and save billions
The ACLU says implementing reforms in Georgia would reduce the state’s prison and jail population by 25,610 people and save the state $1 billion, which could be put back into diversion and treatment programs that would benefit society. The group recognizes many of its proposals are controversial, but says audacious change is necessary to end the mass incarceration crisis. If you are charged with a crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney here in Georgia will aggressively defend your rights.