America does itself no credit for accumulating one of the largest imprisioned populations per capita in the world. For generations now, the politically popular thing to be is “tough on crime,” and that has meant bringing more actions into the definition of criminal behavior and putting more and more people into our bulging prisons.
The U.S. has 639 people per 100,000 in jail, the most of any country in the world. No. 2 is El Salvador, which has 562. (See this chart for more data.)
Is there no alternative to this attitude? Is there little hope that we change direction? Are we not creative enough to find substitutes to incarceration?
Among a few interested in the American justice system, the idea is taking hold that we need to find different ways of keeping order in society and ensuring the domestic tranquility.
This article, recently posted on TheCrimeReport.com, takes to task the behavior of judges and focuses on the work of a former federal judge who is a critic of the way judges rarely seek alternatives to incarceration:
Much of the focus on justice reform has been on changing the behavior of prosecutors and police, with judges often assumed to be above the fray, according to (Nancy) Gertner, former senior judge at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and now a professor of practice at Harvard Law School.
But in fact little headway is possible without the active engagement of judges willing to overcome deeply engrained resistance to changes in sentencing practices, Gertner wrote in a paper commissioned for the Executive Session on the Future of Justice Policy, part of the Columbia University Justice Lab’s Square One Project on reimagining justice.
Reforming the judicial system — from city magistrates to the Supreme Court — is a vital part of creating a more just society.
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