De-incarceration: Utilizing Pre-trial, Diversion and Community Supervision Programs
The United States has some of the highest incarceration and community supervision rates in the world. With 2020 coming to a close, justice reform and prison reform have been top priority for states, trying and reduce the number of those who come into contact with the justice system. As law makers and reformers realize the drastic need for reform, this ultimately will help reduce overcrowding, safety risks, and the financing needed to support jails and prisons. By changing the justice system from a punitive one to rehabilitation, it is creating more opportunity for individuals to succeed in society and give them a second chance.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report detailing the probation and parole rates in the United States for the year 2017-2018. Adults on probation make up 80% of those under community supervision and those on parole make up 20%. Overall, adult populations on probation or parole decreased about 2% from 4,508,900 individuals at the end of 2017 to 4,399,000 individuals at the end of 2018. The total community-supervision population in 2018 was at the lowest is has been since 1998 and has decreased each year since 2008. Parole numbers remain about the same with a slight increase as just shy of 1 million individuals serving parole.
The Prison Policy Initiative details the number of people behind bars in the United States in an overview of the prison system. Currently, the United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation, as 698 per 100,000 residents are behind bars. That results in an incarceration population of more than 2.3 million individuals. 44,000 youth, 42,000 in immigration detention, 631,000 in local jails, 226,000 in federal prisons and jails, and 1,291,000 in state prisons. These are just the beginning of the alarming numbers of those incarcerated.
Many individuals are stuck waiting in jail or prison for many reasons. While not all offenders should be released, many low risk offenders or those suffering from mental health issues that need more help than the system can provide, may be better off on community supervision. Remote Smartphone monitoring is a solution to those on pretrial as it reduces overcrowding, allocates resources better, and allows non-violent individuals to avoid a lengthy jail term before they are even proven guilty. Reducing and eliminating cash bail is another option to allow everyone the same opportunity to post bail and continue working instead of sitting in jail for months until their court date. Finally, sentence reform can help reduce minimum and maximum sentences that are unnecessary and instead find a more helpful and rehabilitative solution to get to the root cause of someone recidivating or ending up in the system in the first place.
Rehabilitative support and supervision programs are imperative when it comes to reducing the number of incarcerated individuals and those under supervision, as it gets to the root of the problem of why people commit crimes and what needs to happen to change their behavior.