US Police Chief’s Call for Reducing Prison Population

A group of 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs from around the United States met this week in Washington DC to call for reforms that would reduce the US prison population.

Those police chiefs are adding their voice as a group to others, including President Barack Obama, who wants to lower the incarceration rate in the United States, which is the highest among developed countries.

While the US population has increased by 30% since 1989, the country’s prison population jumped 800% during the same period, largely due to sentences that are disproportionately harsh compared to other countries.

US prison cells are often packed with drug addicts, non-violent petty criminals, or prisoners with psychiatric problems, and are serving sentences that are so long that they often lose any chance for rehabilitation.

Ban the Box is the name of an international campaign by civil rights groups and advocates for ex-offenders, aimed at persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record. Its purpose is to enable ex-offenders to display their qualifications in the hiring process before being asked about their criminal records. The premise of the campaign is that anything that makes it harder for ex-offenders to find a job makes it likelier that they will re-offend, which is bad for society.

All of Us or None is a grassroots civil and human rights organization fighting for the rights of formerly- and currently- incarcerated people and families. We are fighting against the discrimination that people face every day because of arrest or conviction history.  The goal of All of Us or None is to strengthen the voices of people most affected by mass incarceration and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Through their grassroots organizing, they are building a powerful political movement to win full restoration of human and civil rights.

Houston, Texas police chief Charles McClelland said, “Those individuals that can be saved, that want to do something positive to not recidivate and keep going to jail or prison, we’ve got to have an avenue to allow them to do that and for them to become productive members in our society.” “It is cheaper to keep someone out of jail and prevent a crime. In the state of Texas it costs almost $60,000 USD a year to keep one inmate locked up”.

Several members of the group, which included the police chiefs of Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, planned to meet President Obama on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.

In November 2015, the United States is preparing to release thousands of prisoners considered as low risk of returning to crime, as part of an effort to ease prison overcrowding and redress overly harsh sentences.

The release comes after the US Sentencing Commission, which sets policy for federal crimes, reduced its sentencing guidelines for drug possession.

On Saturday, (October 21) in his weekly radio address President Obama urged reforming the US criminal justice system, saying much of it “remains unfair” and that punishment should correspond to the severity of crimes.  Obama went on to say that the United States is home to five percent of the world’s population but 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners.

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