Home / News / The Federal Gov’t Has Been Paying States to Imprison People: A New Law Could Change That Cruel Policy

The Federal Gov’t Has Been Paying States to Imprison People: A New Law Could Change That Cruel Policy

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Even as President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions support a law-and-order authoritarianism that views mass bonds as a good thing, Democrats in Congress are moving to blunt such tendencies. A check introduced this week in the House is a primary example.

On Wednesday, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) filed the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 (HR 3845), which would use the energy of the sovereign purse to revoke both crime and bonds at the same time. Under the bill, states that decreased the series of prisoners by 7% over 3 years but a estimable boost in crime would be authorised for grants.

The grants would come from the Justice Department and would be awarded “to exercise evidence-based programs designed to revoke crime rates and incarcerations,” according to the check text.


The magnitude radically reverses the 1994 crime bill, which set up Justice Department retard extend programs directed at augmenting arrests and incarceration. Instead of incentivizing states to boost jail populations, the legislation would compensate states to diminution them, while gripping down crime.

Under the legislation, grants would be awarded every 3 years. States are authorised to request if the sum series of people behind bars in the state decreased by 7 percent or some-more in 3 years, and there is no estimable boost in the altogether crime rate within the state. The check could lead to a 20 percent rebate in the inhabitant jail race over 10 years.

Although state and sovereign jail populations have stabilized in the past decade and we are no longer seeing the large increases in invalid numbers that began under Reagan and continued mostly on autopilot by the Clinton and Bush years, the series of people jailed is still unconscionably high. With some-more than 1.5 million people in jail in 2015, the United States stays the universe personality in incarceration, in both per capita and comprehensive numbers.

A healthy commission of them are people sealed up for drug offenses. The Bureau of Prisons reports that scarcely half of all sovereign prisoners are drug offenders. Among the states, the commission varies between about 15% and 25%; overall, about 17% of state jail inmates are drug offenders.

“The costs of the nation’s widespread of over-incarceration is not just metaphorical,” said Rep. Cárdenas at a press discussion rolling out the bill. “Yes, mass bonds and imperative minimums have taken their fee on the families and the communities, and represent one of the biggest polite rights issues of the time. At the same time, the cost to the taxpayer is real. Americans spend almost $80 billion per year on the jail system, in further to much some-more poignant long-term governmental costs. It’s time to right the wrongs of the last decades and help states have the leisure to exercise programs that are some-more cost-effective and keep the streets and communities safer.”

It’s not just in the House. In June, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) filed the Senate chronicle of the bill, SB 1458. Both Booker and Blumenthal came out for the roll-out of the House version.

“In 1994, Congress upheld the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, which combined extend programs that incentivized states to detain some-more people,” said Sen. Booker. “The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act would do the conflicting — it would inspire states to revoke their jail populations and deposit income in evidence-based practices proven to revoke crime and recidivism. Our check recognizes the elementary fact that locking some-more people up does little to make the streets safer. Instead, it costs us billions annually, tears families apart, and disproportionately drives misery in minority communities.”
“Our rapist probity complement is in a state of crisis,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Under stream sentencing guidelines, millions of people—a jagged series of them people of color—have been handed oppressive jail sentences, their lives irreparably altered, and the communities are no safer for it. In fact, in many cases, these draconian sentencing policies have had the conflicting of their dictated effect. State sentencing policies are the major drivers of skyrocketing bonds rates, which is because we’ve introduced legislation to inspire change at the state level. We need to change sovereign incentives so that we prerogative states that are addressing this predicament and improving village safety, instead of funneling some-more sovereign dollars into a broken system.”

While the bills don’t have any Republican sponsors or cosponsors, they are corroborated by a duds of polite rights, human rights, faith-based, and social probity organizations that are pulling tough for Congress to residence mass bonds and the category and secular disparities that underlie it.

“At a time when we have an Attorney General who seeks to continue the foolish use of privatizing prisons and putting some-more and some-more people in them, Congress must remodel the rapist probity complement and do some-more to residence mass incarceration,” pronounced Vanita Gupta, former emissary profession ubiquitous for polite rights and now CEO of the Leadership Conference on Human Rights.

“Rep. Cárdenas, and Senators Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal, have grown a artistic policy offer that would offer as a absolute apparatus to accelerate state efforts in reversing the deleterious impact of mass incarceration,” said Marc Morial, boss and CEO of the National Urban League. “This offer builds on smart prison-reduction policies while also shortening crime. The National Urban League applauds the lawmakers and is committed to operative with them until this check is sealed into law.”

That could be a while. With Republicans in control of the Congress, the bills’ prospects this event are clouded. But even among congressional Republicans, there are regressive rapist probity reformers peaceful to take a tough demeanour at oppressive policies of the past, and there is always the next Congress. While the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017 is doubtful to pass this year, it deserves to be fought for and is laying the grounds for sentencing remodel victories when the congressional meridian is some-more favorable. Let’s wish that’s 2019. 

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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