Foreword: Criminal Justice Responses to the Economic Crisis
11 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2012 Last revised: 7 Dec 2012
Date Written: August 10, 2012
The epidemic rate of incarceration in the United States, long documented, has come at significant financial and social cost. But the global financial crisis has forced legislators and government officials to face issues that they had previously been able to ignore: whether incarceration is the best use of resources to deal with non-violent offenders, whether former inmates should be sent back to prison for violations of conditions of their post-conviction release, rather than for new criminal activity, whether sentences should be so long that the prison population becomes increasingly geriatric. At the same time, taxpayers are beginning to realize that they are not always getting a decent return on their corrections dollar. Crime, and the fear of it, is no longer dominating the domestic agenda. And fiscal conservatives are edging out “tough on crime” rhetoric with proposals to be “smart on crime.”
The goal of the Symposium, held in Atlanta on January 27, 2012, was to bring together a number of scholars and practitioners to see how the moment might be leveraged to produce sustainable change. Cognizant of the ephemeral quality of reform that is solely cost-driven, the participants proposed a variety of solutions that could have staying power, even after the good times return. While controversial, large-scale reforms may remain out of reach, perhaps an accumulation of incremental changes might add up to an overall shift in focus, away from the punitive overreliance on incarceration, and towards a more just, evidence-based and cost-effective justice system.
Keywords: mass incarceration, criminal justice reform, economic crisis
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