This episode provides a big picture overview of why our criminal justice system needs improvement, especially regarding our overuse of prisons, by exploring the gold mine of information and perspective in the 2016 report of the Illinois Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.
The primary focus of this episode is on the background information of the report, which is divided into four subsections:
- The role of prisons
- The impact of high incarceration
- The resource question (or what I refer to as the resource riddle)
- And finally, guiding principles and operating assumptions.
Among the most important points we hope you take away from this episode are:
- Overuse of prison as a solution to crime problems is not only ineffective and hugely expensive, but also counterproductive, resulting in more crime, not less.
- We can’t punish our way out of our crime problems, especially in high crime communities.
- Therefore, rather than persisting in our currently dominant punishment approach to criminal justice, we need to pivot to a problem-solving approach.
- A problem-solving approach leads naturally to replacing overuse of prison with more effective and ultimately less costly solutions best delivered at the local level.
- But, increasing the capacity of local communities to scale up and effectively implement those local solutions requires funding on a scale that meets the need.
- To think those additional funds can come from savings from sending fewer people to prison not only gets the cart before the horse, it is also mathematically unrealistic, given the deep reductions in our prison population that must precede any substantial reduction in the costs of running the prison system.
- That is the resource riddle, and solving it is essential to public safety and community health.
With that background in mind, you’ll be a much better informed listener for our upcoming episodes featuring interviews of remarkable people who have been to prison and returned to build new lives, people whose stories need to be told, whose voices need to be heard.