Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder stood before the American Bar Association to announce that the Obama administration will be taking a new approach to decreasing the number of prisoners in the U.S. prison system.
The Wall Street Journal reports that this “major policy shift aimed at reversing decades of increasing incarceration,” will cut down on costs for the federal prison system and provide relief from overcrowded prisons. With a higher percentage of its population behind bars than any other country, the U.S. government spent $80 billion on federal prisons in 2010.
Holder says, “We must never stop being tough on crime. But we must also be smarter on crime. Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable.”
Holder listed a few goals in his speech that will drive forward the administration’s new plan:
- Decrease the number of charges that result in the incarceration of people involved in nonviolent crimes
- Increase the number of early releases allowed for non-dangerous, elderly inmates
- Encourage alternatives to prison, such as substance-abuse treatment programs
Prison Fellowship® is also working toward goals that will save the tax-payers money on the country’s prison system. Baylor University published a study in the “International Journal of Criminology” that focused on the InnerChange Freedom Initiative® in Minnesota. This study found that the program saved the state about $3 million through the reduction of people returning to prison. After seeing that prisoner participation in the privately funded program resulted in fewer rearrests, the Minnesota Department of Corrections called faith-based reentry programs “cost effective.”