“The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world. At yearend 2011, approximately 7 million individuals were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails.”

Sentencing Project

“As a nation, we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts.  While the entire U.S. population has increased by about a third since 1980, the federal prison population has grown at an astonishing rate – by almost 800 percent.  It’s still growing – despite the fact that federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity.  Even though this country comprises just 5 percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.  More than 219,000 federal inmates are currently behind bars.  Almost half of them are serving time for drug-related crimes, and many have substance use disorders.  Nine to 10 million more people cycle through America’s local jails each year.  And roughly 40 percent of former federal prisoners – and more than 60 percent of former state prisoners – are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after their release, at great cost to American taxpayers and often for technical or minor violations of the terms of their release.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. August 12, 2013.

“… across [America], thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes as petty as siphoning gasoline from an 18-wheeler, shoplifting three belts, breaking into a parked car and stealing a woman’s bagged lunch, or possessing a bottle cap smeared with heroin residue. In their cruelty and harshness, these sentences defy common sense. They are grotesquely out of proportion to the conduct they seek to punish. They offend the principle that all people have the right to be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) publication. A Living Death Life without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses. 2013.

“At any given time, about 80,000 American prisoners endure solitary confinement, a punishment developed in the early nineteenth century and banned by much of the world as a form of torture. It fails the Eighth Amendment test on cruel and unusual punishments, considering that it is not only cruel but was unheard of at the time of the Constitution’s ratification.”

 – Independent Institute report. America’s Prisons: The Worst National Disgrace. 2013.

“As a nation, we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts.  While the entire U.S. population has increased by about a third since 1980, the federal prison population has grown at an astonishing rate – by almost 800 percent.  It’s still growing – despite the fact that federal prisons are operating at nearly 40 percent above capacity.  Even though this country comprises just 5 percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.  More than 219,000 federal inmates are currently behind bars.  Almost half of them are serving time for drug-related crimes, and many have substance use disorders.  Nine to 10 million more people cycle through America’s local jails each year.  And roughly 40 percent of former federal prisoners – and more than 60 percent of former state prisoners – are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after their release, at great cost to American taxpayers and often for technical or minor violations of the terms of their release.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. August 12, 2013.

“… it [United Nations Committee] remains concerned about reports of extensive use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in US prisons, jails and other detention centres for purpose of punishment, discipline and protection, as well as for health-related reasons”

 – UN Committee report on Torture Says U.S. Must Reform Its Use of Solitary Confinement. 2014.

“Since the mid-1970s, state and federal legislators have passed laws creating draconian sentencing and parole schemes designed to keep ever-increasing numbers of people in prison for decades. These policies include mandatory minimum sentencing, which forces judges to issue severe sentences regardless of individual factors meriting leniency, and three-strikes laws, which expand the number of crimes subject to life and life-without-parole sentences. These policies have increased the number of people imprisoned and the lengths of their imprisonments, as well as limited opportunities for release, causing the population of federal and state prisoners to soar.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Overcrowding and Overuse of Imprisonment in the United States. Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights May 2015

“Re-entry is a formidable challenge for individuals leaving prison. Not only must they adjust to freedom and an ever-changing society after years or decades on the inside, they must also contend with numerous legal barriers to rebuilding their lives. These barriers limit their access to housing, temporary support via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), higher education, and employment—barriers that increase the likelihood that even the most well-intentioned returning citizens could recidivate and re-enter the prison system.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) publication. Overcrowding and Overuse of Imprisonment in the United States. Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights May 2015.

“America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. Nearly 2½ million Americans are in prison. Over 65 million people, or 20% of the country, have criminal records. Most disturbingly, nearly 40% of our country’s prisoners are African-Americans, who only make up 13% of the general population.”

 Evan Feinberg, Executive Director at Stand Together. Why are so many Americans criminals? Opinion. 2015. 

“For nonviolent drug crimes, we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentences — or get rid of them entirely. Give judges some discretion around nonviolent crimes so that, potentially, we can steer a young person who has made a mistake in a better direction.

We should pass a sentencing reform bill through Congress this year. We need to ask prosecutors to use their discretion to seek the best punishment, the one that’s going to be most effective, instead of just the longest punishment. We should invest in alternatives to prison, like drug courts and treatment and probation programs — which ultimately can save taxpayers thousands of dollars per defendant each year.”

 – Former President Barack Obama. Remarks at the 106th NAACP Annual Convention in Philadelphia, PA. July 14, 2015.