It is a very compelling read -- and was created under the guidance of Hon. Jed Rakoff – whose pragmatist jurisprudence commonly identifies the greatest threats and impediments to our system of justice.
The report can be read here: http://www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/Mass_Incarceration_Seizing_the_Moment_for_Reform-20150928.pdf
Here is the introduction:
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Our country has only 5% of the world’s population, yet we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners. In real numbers, that statistic translates into 2.3 million people behind bars. There are currently five times as many people incarcerated now than there were in 1970.
While no one doubts that incarceration is generally appropriate to protect society from those who commit violent offenses, it has, unfortunately, become the default remedy for a host of non-violent offenses in instances where other more effective remedies are available. While the adverse effects of this approach have been felt by many, our country’s massive and reflexive use of incarceration as the solution to all criminal problems has had a disproportionate (and devastating) impact on African-American and Latino young men. African-Americans and Latinos collectively account for 30% of our population, but they represent 60% of our current inmates. The raw numbers are striking: approximately one in every 35 African-American men, and one in 88 Latino men is presently serving time behind bars (in contrast to one in 214 white men).3 We believe that the United States is at a critical juncture in the debate about mass incarceration. This Report, on behalf of the New York City Bar Association, is intended to highlight this historic opportunity and to urge federal and state leaders to make the reduction of mass incarceration a top priority. Specifically, as explained in greater detail below, we recommend that: Studies have also shown that our current levels of incarceration are shockingly expensive, costing taxpayers billions and billions of dollars each year. Over-incarceration has other extraordinarily damaging effects, including contributing to the poverty rate and long-term unemployment, and stigmatizing those who have served time in prison in numerous ways.
We believe that the United States is at a critical juncture in the debate about mass incarceration. This Report, on behalf of the New York City Bar Association, is intended to highlight this historic opportunity and to urge federal and state leaders to make the reduction of mass incarceration a top priority. Specifically, as explained in greater detail below, we recommend that:
• Congress and State legislatures repeal mandatory minimum sentencing provisions or, at least, reduce substantially the length of the terms these provisions mandate and the range of offenses to which they apply;
• Congress and State legislatures reduce substantially the sentences recommended by sentencing guidelines and similar laws for non-violent offenses;
• Congress and State legislatures expand significantly the alternatives to prison available to judges imposing sentences, including drug programs, mental health programs and job training programs and, in cases of incarceration, expand significantly the availability of rehabilitative services, including access to higher education, vocational training and substance abuse and mental health services, during and following incarceration so that individuals can successfully reenter society and avoid recidivism;
• Congress and State legislatures eliminate or reduce substantially financial conditions of pretrial release. Incarceration at the pretrial stage, even for a few days, has terrible downstream repercussions for individuals, disrupting lives and leading to a higher likelihood of further incarceration, for longer periods and also higher rates of rearrest;
• Congress and State legislatures provide opportunities for individuals with misdemeanor and non-violent felony convictions to seal those records to prevent employer discrimination; and
• the New York State Legislature should enact legislation to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 years old.
With the enactment of these changes, our country’s political leaders, sentencing judges, and law-enforcement authorities can take a long and desperately needed step toward reducing the dire consequences of mass incarceration. **