Can we wait 88 years to end mass incarceration?

(From The Sentencing Project)

Last week the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual report on prison and corrections populations. The report documented that 2012 represented the third consecutive year of decline in the national prison population, and the fourth year of overall corrections decline.

While these developments are encouraging, the scale of reform to date is still quite modest.  In an assessment of these trends, my colleague Nazgol Ghandnoosh and I have just published a commentary in the Huffington Post, “Can We Wait 88 Years to End Mass Incarceration?” Our analysis shows that if prison populations continue to decline at the 1.8% rate of this past year it will not be until 2101 – 88 years – before the number of individuals in prison is reduced to the level of 1980.

Although there is clearly momentum on criminal justice reform, this assessment suggests that we need to accelerate the pace of reform, particularly regarding sentencing policy. At the federal level several bipartisan bills to scale back the impact of mandatory sentencing are being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, while legislators in a number of states are preparing to introduce measures in the new year.

I hope we can all lend our efforts to such initiatives, and we look forward to working with you in the new year.

Marc Mauer

The Sentencing Project