Unlocking America- a study for all

view Unlocking America PDF file

short intro

James Austin, President, The JFA Institute
Todd Clear, Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Troy Duster, Professor, New York University
David F. Greenberg, Professor, New York University
John Irwin, Professor Emeritus, San Francisco State University
Candace McCoy, Professor, City University of New York
Alan Mobley, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University
Barbara Owen, Professor, California State University, Fresno
Joshua Page, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota


This report focuses on how we can reduce the
nation’s prison population without adversely affecting
public safety. For this to happen, we will need to reduce
the number of people sent to prison and, for those who
do go to prison, shorten the length of time they spend
behind bars and under parole and probation surveillance.
People who break the law must be held accountable,
but many of those currently incarcerated should
receive alternative forms of punishment, and those who
are sent to prison must spend a shorter period incarcerated
before coming home to our communities. Our recommendations
would reestablish practices that were
the norm in America for most of the previous century,
when incarceration rates were a fraction of what they
are today.
We fi rst summarize the current problem, explaining
how some of the most popular assumptions about
crime and punishment are incorrect. In particular, we
demonstrate that incarcerating large numbers of people
has little impact on crime, and show how the improper
use of probation and parole increases incarceration
rates while doing little to control crime. We then turn
to ideas about how to change this flawed system. We
set out an organizing principle for analyzing sentencing
reform, embracing a retributive sentencing philosophy
that is mainstream among contemporary prison policy
analysts and sentencing scholars.
Based on that analysis, we make a series of recommendations
for changing current sentencing laws and
correctional policies. Each recommendation is practical
and cost-effective. As we show through examples of
cases in which they have been tried, they can be adopted
without jeopardizing public safety. If implemented
on a national basis, our recommendations would gradually
and safely reduce the nation’s prison and jail populations
to half their current size. This reduction would
generate savings of an estimated $20 billion a year that
could then be reinvested in far more promising crime
prevention strategies. The result would be a system of
justice and punishment that is far less costly, more effective,
and more humane than what we have today

ity of Minnesota
Funding provided by:
Designed by:
Darcy Harris
I. Crime Rates and Incarceration
II. Three Key Myths about Crime and Incarceration
III. The Limits of Prison-Based Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs in Reducing the Prison Population
IV. Decarceration, Cost Savings, and Public Safety
V. Six Recommendations
VI. Concluding Remark