Who leads the world in the number of incarcerated individuals? The United States. There are over two million people behind bars in this country and another three million under some other form of control (like probation or parole). Add to these numbers up to 100 million people who are living with a criminal record that impacts their opportunities in a negative way every single day. Without question, it is well past time to examine what is not working and make some changes. States from coast to coast are doing just that.
People facing non-violent, low-level drug charges in Kentucky can now have their cases put on hold while they undertake treatment and take advantage of vocational services. Meanwhile, states across the country are decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis use, and Colorado decriminalized psilocybin mushroom use.
Revision of Mandatory Minimums
Eliminating or reducing mandatory minimum sentences has been on the docket in Washington, D.C. Maximum sentencing requirements of 45 years have been reduced, and rules related to the reconsideration of lengthy sentences have been adjusted to favor defendants.
Changes to Probation/Parole
Individuals in Florida who are on probation can now get education or workforce credits in order to reduce the length of their probation. They can earn:
- 60 days off of probation for every educational activity completed;
- 30 days off of probation for every six-month period that they were employed for at least 30 hours/week.
The End of Involuntary Servitude
Vermont, Oregon, Tennessee, and Alabama all amended their state constitutions to remove any language that allowed for involuntary servitude in their prisons.
Individuals serving jail sentences in Washington State and in Massachusetts are now guaranteed the right to vote. There are now funded programs designed to ensure detainees are aware of their rights and are registered to vote.
The age of detention has been raised to 12 in Indiana, and improvements in data collection and youth diversion programs have been implemented.
Juvenile courts in Maryland will not have jurisdiction over children until age 13, and juveniles who commit misdemeanors or who sustain technical violations of probation can no longer be placed in secure facilities (with rare exceptions). Additionally, diversion programs have been offered to young people who have committed nonviolent felonies, even without the consent of prosecutors and/or victims.
Tennessee confronted its mandatory 51-year sentencing requirement for certain youth offenders, substituting it with the opportunity for parole after 25 years served.
Providing help with social relationships and collaborating services with community-based programs in Nevada is expected to help prepare inmates for their eventual release. Support for housing, employment, education, and health services is expected to improve recidivism rates.
Under the Racial Justice Act for All here in California, anyone who was convicted of a crime before 2021 may seek relief if they can prove a component of racial bias in their conviction. (Case challenges were already allowed for convictions that occurred during or after 2021). Continue reading