A new report and campaign out this month from the NAACP highlights the misplaced priorities for state and federal funding – with states and federal government seemingly more willing to fund the incarceration of American youth than their education.

Key findings from the research:

• The majority of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are people of color, people with mental health issues and drug addiction, people with low levels of educational attainment, and people with a history of unemployment or underemployment.

• The nation’s reliance on incarceration to respond to social and behavioral health issues is evidenced by the large numbers of people who are incarcerated for drug offenses. Among people in federal prisons, people in local jails, and young people held in the nation’s detention centers and local secure facilities, more than 500,000 people—nearly a quarter of all those incarcerated—are incarcerated as the result of a drug conviction.

• During the last two decades,  state spending on prisons grew at six times the rate of state spending on higher education

The NAACP’s recommendations:

1. Study the problem:  Support federal, state, and local efforts to create a blue-ribbon commission that will conduct a thorough evaluation of the criminal justice system and offer recommendations for reform in a range of areas, including:  sentencing policy, rates of incarceration, law enforcement, crime prevention, substance abuse and mental health treatment, corrections, and re-entry.

2. Create reinvestment commissions:  Support commissions charged with identifying legislative and policy avenues to downsize prison populations and shift savings from prison closures to education budgets.

3. Eliminate disparities in drug laws: Support efforts to eliminate disparities in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine at the state and federal level.

4. Increase earned time:  Support reforms that would allow prisoners to earn an earlier release by participating in educational and vocational programming as well as drug and mental health treatment.

5. Support youth violence reduction programs: Support programs and policies to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies for at-risk youth to prevent gang activity and criminal justice involvement.

6. Reform sentencing and drug policies: Eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses that help fuel drug imprisonment.

7. Use diversion for drug-involved individuals: Reform prosecutorial guidelines to divert people to treatment who would otherwise serve a mandatory prison term.

8. Shorten prison terms: Send young offenders who would otherwise receive mandatory sentences to structured programs to help them earn their GED and shave time off their prison sentences.

9. Increase parole release rates:  Improve parole boards’ ability to use evidence-based strategies when making decisions to parole prisoners, thus improving parolees’ chances for success and increasing parole approval rates.

10.Reduce revocations of people under community supervision:  Develop alternative to-incarceration programs that will reduce the number of people sent to prison for technical violations.

11.Support re-entry and the sealing of records: Support legislation that will close criminal records of certain offenders after they have not committed another crime within a certain number of years.

via: The Root, via Transform

 

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