Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The South Leads the Way

...in sentencing reform, apparently.  Yes, you read that correctly. 

This story from IPS discusses how states are finally confronting exploding prison populations and costs, including discussing much-needed reforms to mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
A recent report by the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) outlines some of the changes already taken by some states.

For example, Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have reduced or eliminated jail or prison time for parole and probation violations, opting instead for stricter supervision and alternative sentences like community service, according to SCHR.

Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee have all created alternative sentencing options for low-level, low-risk offenders, such as parole and probation.

Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas have attempted to reduce recidivism, that is, people returning to prison, by stronger emphasis on reentry planning that is tailored to meet individuals' needs.

In addition, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee have removed minimum sentencing requirements for certain drug-related violations.
That list of southern state reforms is a movement away from that region's reputation as the home of chain gangs and Hollywood-worthy excessive punishments.  Let's hope the trend gains momentum and spreads.

Read the SCHR's report on how Georgia can join the movement here (ditching mandatory minimum sentencing laws is one of its recommendations for Governor Nathan Deal and the state legislature, a recommendation we, of course, support!).

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