There are 1.46 million Americans currently serving time in prison. But a full 39 percent of these incarcerated are jailed for low-level and nonviolent crimes, according to a new report.
A report released last week by the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center found that 576,000 inmates are jailed for petty or minor crimes for which there is no public safety rationale for having them jailed, or have already served so long a sentence that their release would not pose a risk to society.
“Instead of doubling down on the failed draconian policies of the past, based on vengeance, we have an opportunity to rethink how America punishes people who break the law and ground those decisions in what we know works,” the study’s authors L.B. Eisen and Inimai M. Chettiar wrote in a Time magazine op-ed.
Their rethinking involves eliminating prison sentences that for low-level crimes, and reducing back the minimum and maximum sentences that are currently on the books.
The study estimates that releasing this nearly half a million unnecessarily incarcerated prisoners would save nearly $20 billion per year — enough to hire 270,000 police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 public school teachers.