Report | Corrections spending | Investing in prevention | Sentencing | August 2011

By the American Civil Liberties Union

Since President Richard Nixon first announced the “War on Drugs” forty years ago, the United States has adopted “tough on crime” criminal justice policies that have given it the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. These past forty years of criminal justice policymaking have been characterized by over criminalization, increasingly

draconian sentencing and parole regimes, mass incarceration of impoverished communities of color, and rapid prison building.

These policies have also come at a great expense to taxpayers. But budget shortfalls of historic proportions are finally prompting states across the country to realize that less punitive approaches to criminal justice not only make more fiscal sense but also better protect our communities. This report details how several states with long histories of being “tough on crime” have embraced alternatives to incarceration, underscoring that reform is not only politically and fiscally viable, but that other states must also urgently follow suit.

Read>> Smart reform is possible: States reducing incarceration rates and costs while protecting communities