Humanizing Fiscal Costs: Creating the Incentives for Criminal Justice Reform and Reducing Recidivism
McCullough, Leah Natalie
HUMANIZING FISCAL COSTS: CREATING THE INCENTIVES FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AND REDUCING RECIDIVISMLeah McCullough, B.A.MALS Mentor: Molly Inman, Ph.D.ABSTRACTHolding approximately five percent of the world’s population, the United States has twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. With over 2 million people behind bars, the US is one of the most punitive countries in the world, with comparable rates to that of Russia and North Korea. The government-led War on Drugs and Tough on Crime on Crime policies beginning in the 1960s resulted in the steadfast growth of incarceration, as well as severely increasing costs and the victimization and de-humanizations of millions. About 95 percent of incarcerated men and women will return home, and yet, recidivism rates are detrimentally high: 44.7 percent of federal prisoners will be re-arrested after five years, and 76.6 percent of state prisoners will be re-arrested within in five years. With $80 billion each year spent on prisons, recently, people are beginning to regard such high recidivism rates as signs of failure. The thesis will examine why criminal justice reform, specifically with the focus on reducing recidivism rates, is happening now, and how it is happening. Despite the Tough on Crime policies seen before and around the turn of the century, the urgency for reform has been slowly brewing. At the grassroots level across the country, universities, non-profit organizations, public officials, authors, documentarians, and volunteers are finding ways to push the agenda of increasing the awareness of the realities of our criminal justice system and showing stronger rehabilitation services for inmates is a worthy investment. Likewise, in 2018, the FIRST STEP Act, a bipartisan bill standing for “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person,” was passed in Congress and signed into law. The recent passage of this law exhibits the national incentive to prevent inmates from receding back into the system, and the acknowledgement that crime is commonly a result of the environments our system places individuals. Ultimately, through this examination, it is understood great strides are being made for criminal justice reform at the local, state, and federal level. Activists are finding ways to draw upon both fiscal and moral reasonings to back reform – they are humanizing fiscal costs through proving the justice system needs immediate change. It becomes all the more prudent to understand such incentives if we hope to evaluate the types of reform happening and if we wish to understand where the nation’s justice system is headed.
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