Want Safer Communities? Throw Fewer People Behind Bars

By Sarah Solon, Communications Strategist, ACLU – Before he started singing with muppets, John Oliver showed us a lot of boxes of Cheerios. This was in the second minute of his epic rant on the state of the U.S. criminal justice system last week. Varieties of Cheerios – from “Frosted” to “Fruity” – are the only thing that’s expanded as quickly as the number of people we throw behind bars, according to Oliver. He attributes this boom in incarceration to doing away with a mental health system, to excessively long sentences, and to a War on Drugs that has failed to impact drug use and forced millions under correctional control. He’s right. For years we’ve been told that in order to have safe streets, we need to aggressively incarcerate large swaths of the population. But that simply isn’t true. Many people end up behind bars for reasons that have...

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