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US report: The State of Sentencing 2010

25th February 2011

This report, published 17 February, highlights the legislative changes enacted in some US states during 2010. The new changes show the significant shift towards less punitive sanctions in the USA, where the prison population is estimated at 2.3 million.

 The report emphasizes that states are attempting to reduce correctional costs while also providing a more effective balance of crime control measures. Many legislators are concerned that high incarceration rates have done little to effectively protect the general public. 

Some of the main highlights of this report include:

  • South Carolina equalized penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses as part of a sentencing reform package that garnered bipartisan support.
  • California authorized medical parole for prisoners who are permanently incapacitated.
  • Colorado modified its parole revocation policy in order to encourage greater use of substance abuse treatment programs. The legislation also requires that a portion of the cost savings from reduced incarceration be allocated to reentry services including employment assistance and substance abuse treatment.
  • Virginia established alternatives to detention policy for juveniles tried as adults.
  • Vermont established a goal of reducing the incarceration rate that directs a coalition of criminal justice stakeholders to work cooperatively to reduce the incarceration rate to 300 persons or less per 100,000 population, from the current rate of 370 per 100,000.

The report also makes a number of recommendations that lawmakers need to consider when considering sentence reform in the coming year. In particular, the report shows how many states have succeeded in addressing overcrowding by reducing their prison populations. 

Read more:

  • Read the full report here.
  • Access the press release from The Sentencing Project here.
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