Should Prison Sentences in the United States Be Limited to 20 Years?

 Posted on March 20, 2023 in Criminal Defense

"ConnecticutMass incarceration is a major concern that has affected our criminal justice system. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and over two million people are currently serving prison sentences. More than 50 percent of the people in American prisons are serving sentences of 10 years or more, and one out of every seven people who are incarcerated have been sentenced to life in prison. As part of their ongoing calls for criminal justice reform, advocates have stated that prison reform measures should be put in place, including a 20-year cap on sentences, reduced sentences for all criminal offenses, and other reforms that would reduce the prison population and improve rehabilitation rates.

Reports Show the Benefits of Limiting Prison Sentences

Recently, multiple organizations that advocate for criminal justice reform have released reports detailing the benefits of reducing prison sentences and outlining changes that would benefit communities in the United States. A report by the Sentencing Project noted that mass incarceration has not improved safety or living conditions for people in the U.S., but has instead increased inequality and caused significant problems for many families. One out of every 14 children under the age of 14 have a parent who has been incarcerated, and this can affect parents' ability to provide for their children and ensure that they are raised in a safe and healthy environment. People with lower incomes and minorities are disproportionately affected by these issues, with Black children being twice as likely as white children to have a parent who is in prison.

Long prison sentences reduce the likelihood of rehabilitation, since those who have been incarcerated for multiple years or decades will often struggle to successfully re-enter the community. They can have difficulty finding employment and housing, and without the ability to support themselves and their families, they may feel that they have no other choice but to engage in criminal activity.

To address these issues, the Sentencing Project's report recommends that life sentences without parole be abolished, and the maximum prison sentence should be capped at 20 years. This would put the United States in line with many other democratic countries. Lengthy sentences are not an effective deterrent against crime, and they divert resources away from other programs that could improve public safety. Other recommendations made by the report include abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, eliminating sentence enhancements that may increase sentences for repeat offenders or others, ensuring that prisoners have access to parole, reducing sentences for all offenses, and decriminalizing some low-level offenses.

Another report issued by the Vera Institute of Justice recommended similar reforms, and it noted that severe sentences do not reduce crime rates and actually make communities less safe. It also detailed how young people are more prone to violent crimes but become less likely to commit offenses as they get older. To address concerns about mass incarceration and public safety, the report recommends capping all prison sentences at a maximum of 20 years or 15 years for people who are 25 years old or younger. Other suggested reforms include allowing prisoners to earn credits that reduce their sentences by participating in programs meant to help prevent future criminal activity, as well as increasing the use of probation or other community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration.

Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer

While many people and organizations are advocating for changes that could affect prisoners and people charged with crimes, the system of mass incarceration still exists in the United States. Those who are currently involved in criminal cases will need to determine their options for defense, and with the help of an attorney, they can advocate for solutions that will minimize the impact on themselves and their families. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, our Hartford criminal defense attorney can provide effective legal representation for those who have been charged with crimes, ensuring that their rights will be protected and that they can resolve their cases successfully. Contact us at 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.salon.com/2023/02/16/report-urges-capping-us-sentences-at-20-years-to-end-mass-incarceration_partner/

https://www.sentencingproject.org/app/uploads/2023/02/Counting-Down-Paths-to-20-Year-Maximum-Prison-Sentence.pdf

https://www.vera.org/downloads/publications/Vera-Sentencing-Report-2023.pdf

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