Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
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Readings for Reflection: July 2016
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

“Long Past Time to Eliminate Mass Incarceration”

Marc Mauer, the author of this passage, is a Quaker and is Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, a non-profit whose work focuses on efforts to reduce excessively long sentencing in the criminal justice system. He served as Director of the AFSC Criminal Justice Program in Michigan and was also a volunteer visitor at Milan Federal prison (PVS), the organization I volunteer for in order to visit prisoners there. I find his work and his insights to be “spot on” and am honored to follow him as a prison visitor.     ~ Ruth Carey

A growing consensus has developed around the idea that the “war on drugs” has relied far too heavily on excessive punishments, and that treatment interventions for substance abusers are both more effective and compassionate than long-term imprisonment …. But if a prison reduction strategy is focused primarily on drug policy reform, we will be sorely disappointed in the results. Of the 2.2 million people behind bars in America today, nearly half a million are incarcerated for non-violent drug offense. So even if we were to release that entire group, we would still have a rate of incarceration far higher than that of any comparable nation.

… It has long been known that individuals “age out” of crime …. Research by leading criminologists ... demonstrates that an 18-year-old arrested for robbery is no more likely to be arrested for this crime by the age of 26 than anyone in the general population …. Estimates are that the cost of imprisoning an elderly offender is double that of a young offender, largely due to high health-care costs. Given that public-safety resources are finite, incarcerating aging prisoners inevitably diverts resources from preschool programs, substance abuse treatments, and mental health interventions that all produce demonstrated and substantial crime-reduction benefits.

Fewer people are sent to prison in most nations and their terms of imprisonment are considerably less severe. And ... such policies have not produced spikes in crime. It is long past time to eliminate mass incarceration, and the only way to accomplish that will be to think broadly about how far we have come from any reasonable conception of what a fair and effective justice system should look like.

Excerpt from winter 2016 newsletter
from The Sentencing Project,
written by Marc Mauer

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