Our reliance on incarceration results in enormous collateral damage to families, communities and the economic well being of our local, state and national economies.
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Why it Matters

Mass incarceration due to the War on Drugs disproportionately affects poor and minority communities and has resulted in the incarceration of millions of people for non-violent drug use offenses with huge collateral damage. Approximately 53% of people in prison have a child under the age of 18. In 2010, approximately 2.7 million children in the U.S. had a parent in prison. An absentee parent, and the stigma of incarceration can limit a child's life opportunities at an early age and lead to generational cycles of imprisonment. Poor and minority men with criminal records have high unemployment rates and high rates of recidivism, which deprives poor communities of the largest segment of their working age population. The collateral damage from mass incarceration does not stop on the local level. The U.S. now spends more than $80 billion a year on corrections, scarce dollars better spent on job training, education and social services to reduce crime and recidivism.

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What We Can Do

Advocate for state and federal drug and sentencing law reforms and non-discriminatory crime enforcement policies. Support prosecutors who prosecute laws fairly based upon public safety not prejudice. Insist on adequate funding for community based substance abuse and mental health treatment. Support and create ATIs – Alternative To Incarceration programs and job and life skills reentry programs both in and outside of prisons.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting the efforts of JustLeadershipUSA to cut the mass incarceration rate in half by 2030. #halfby2030

Empower judges to make wise decisions and making the system more just by ending mandatory sentences.
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Why it Matters

Mandatory sentencing laws remove discretion from judges who are in the best position to evaluate the facts and circumstances of each person’s case. Mandatory sentencing can prevent the use of alternatives to incarceration, penalize people with mental or personality disorders, and wastes taxpayer money incarcerating non-violent offenders, turning many into future violent offenders.

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What We Can Do

Tell federal legislators to reduce harsh penalties for drug offenses, give federal judges flexibility in sentencing, and apply the Fair Sentencing Act to individuals already serving prison time for crack cocaine based on the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity which disproportionately impacts poor people and minorities.

Tell state legislators to eliminate sentencing disparities for crack vs. powder cocaine and lessen penalties for low-level crack cocaine offenses.

Create and support ATIs – Alternatives to Incarceration to avoid sentencing people to incarceration.

Tell judicial candidates that you expect them to use their discretion wisely.

Reform drug sentencing laws and decriminalize drugs.
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Why it Matters

Prohibition does not work. The War on Drugs has driven the exponential growth of prisons over the past 40 years and is the main cause of mass incarceration. Nearly 750,000 people are arrested annually for marijuana related crimes, about 87% of them for simple possession. These laws are enforced inequitably; blacks comprise 13% of the population and 13% of the nation's drug users, but are 34% of those arrested for drug offenses and 45% of those held in state prisons for drug offenses.

The War on Drugs wastes taxpayer dollars. Each year the federal government spends about $51 billion on drug law enforcement and has spent in excess of $1 trillion over the past 4 decades. In 2010 alone, states spent an additional $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws.

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What We Can Do

Decriminalize drug use, including marijuana. Redirect billions spent on the War on Drugs to treatment and addiction services. Reform drug sentencing laws, including disparities between crack and powder cocaine and enforce the laws in a just, non-discriminatory way. Addiction is a public health issue and requires treatment, not incarceration.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting the efforts of The Drug Policy Alliance to advocate for drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Incorporate job skills, substance abuse, mental health and other training programs for rehabilitation within the prison system.
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Why it Matters

Approximately 95% of incarcerated people are eventually released from prison, whether incarcerated for violent or non-violent offenses. About two-thirds (67.8%) of those released will be arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) will be rearrested within 5 years. On average, the cost to incarcerate one person each year is $31,000, yet it costs only $140,000 to $174,000 a year to provide a college education to an incarcerated person. Incarcerated people who participate in educational programs in prison may be 43% less likely to recidivate and 13% more likely to find employment upon release. It is estimated that $1 million spent on incarceration prevents 350 crimes, but invested in education it could prevent 600 crimes.

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What We Can Do

Restore Pell grants for incarcerated people and increase federal and state funding for education in prisons. Insist that tax dollars spent for corrections includes funding for reentry programs in prison.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting educational and reentry programs operating in prisons such as the Bard Prison Initiative, NYS Prison-to-College Pipeline, Hudson Link, and Insight Out's GRIP program.

Limiting the use of solitary confinement to short term therapeutic segregation (typically not more than 72 hours) for those with serious and or chronic mental illness or personality disorders.
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Why it Matters

Solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, is inhumane and has been described as torture. It is banned by the Geneva Conventions and condemned by the United Nations. Yet, an estimated 80,000 people in the United States are held in solitary confinement for 22 to 24 hours a day, including 25,000 held in isolation at federal supermax prisons. An estimated 45% of people in supermax facilities have "serious mental illness, marked by symptoms or psychological breakdowns."

Solitary confinement is also expensive. According to Solitary Watch, the average per-cell cost of housing a person in a supermax prison is $75,000, as opposed to $25,000 for a person in the general population. Solitary increases recidivism and does not reduce prison violence.

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What We Can Do

Ban solitary confinement. In cases where an individual needs treatment to remain safe or to keep the general prison population safe from episodic violence, short- term therapeutic segregation is a humane and appropriate alternative.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting the efforts of Solitary Watch to bring this issue to the attention of the U.S. populous, and pressure policymakers and others to stop solitary confinement.

Develop an alternative to incarceration pilot facility to provide a secure "locked" therapeutic environment for those with serious and or chronic mental illness or personality disorders.
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Why it Matters

An estimated 14% of men and 31% of women in jail settings have serious mental illness, and over 70% of people in jail have a co-occurring substance use-disorder. In 2010, each U.S. resident on average contributed $260 to corrections expenditures and state spending on corrections has risen almost 400% in the last two decades. Prison is the most expensive, least effective and least humane way to address social problems. Underlying issues that lead to violence are invariably exacerbated in prison. Alternative facilities that provide treatment, education, job training and foster "corrections", result in reductions in recidivism and significant savings for taxpayers.

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What We Can Do

Work to direct state and federal funding to programs like therapeutic community therapy, assisted outpatient treatment, and re-entry programs. Support and work to establish more mental health courts, which have successfully diverted people to effective rehabilitation programs in many communities.

Support the Greenburger Center in our effort to create Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) options for people with significant mental and personality disorders, as well as the efforts of CASES, the first and preeminent member of the NY ATI/Reentry Coalition to provide special services to the mentally ill.

Advocate on behalf of the families of those incarcerated to improve communication and visitation policies and support the children of incarcerated parents through education, art and other mentoring programs.
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Keep
Families
Together
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Why it Matters

Losing a family member to prison is financially and emotionally stressful. 53% of people in prison are parents with a child under the age of 18. Since 1980, the number of women in prison has increased by at least 646%. Because women are often the primary caregivers of children, this increase has a serious impact on children’s wellbeing. In 2010, approximately 2.7 million children had a parent in prison. Furthermore, a previously incarcerated parent may have difficulties obtaining state and federal aid, such as food stamps and be prohibited from residing with family members living in public housing. The stigma of incarceration may limit a child's life opportunities and lead to generational cycles of incarceration. Keeping families together also lowers recidivism.

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What We Can Do

For those in prison, visiting and communication should be facilitated by humane choices about location, visitation rules, and access to remote technology. Federal and state public housing policies should be revised to allow reintegration of returning citizens with family members residing in subsidized public housing.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting the efforts of The Osborne Association’s FamilyWorks and other projects.

Invest in programs to ease re-entry for the millions of Americans who have spent time behind bars, including issuance of IDs prior to release, job counseling, transitional employment, and housing assistance.
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Why it Matters

More than 700,000 people are released from prison each year. Opportunities for returning citizens are severely limited in employment, housing, the right to vote, the ability to secure loans and credit including exclusion from student loans. These factors increase the likelihood of reoffending and recidivism. Statistics show that within three years of their release, about two-thirds of formerly incarcerated people are rearrested, and one half are re-incarcerated. For people with mental illness leaving prison, continuity of appropriate care and treatment may be hindered by the complexity of the health care system and the lack of coordination between the correctional facility and social service organizations.

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What We Can Do

Support and fund educational, vocational, and therapeutic reentry programs. Change work and housing policies that prevent former prisoners from working and participating in communities.

Join the Greenburger Center in supporting the efforts of NY ATI/Reentry Coalition members, such as the Fortune Society, who offer supportive environments for people who have been newly released from prison to develop job skills, address substance abuse issues, and connect with treatment opportunities.

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