The Champion

May 2009 , Page 5 

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NACDL's Report on Misdemeanor Courts: Overcriminalization Gone Mad (Inside NACDL)

By Norman L. Reimer

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NACDL has long opposed the expansion of criminal enforcement as a means of shaping human behavior. Whether it is the misguided approach to substance abuse or ill-conceived efforts to shape corporate behavior by irrationally wielding the sword of criminal prosecution, the consequences of overcriminalization are often far worse for society than the underlying conduct. The nation’s burgeoning prison population, which now approaches a staggering 2.5 million,1 produces cascading social and economic costs on families and communities. This national calamity is a direct consequence of enforcement policies that have become detached from legitimate concerns for public safety, sweeping up hundreds of thousands of non-violent, non-recidivist offenders.

This is not news in the context of felony enforcement. Lawyers, commentators, and even some political leaders are finally beginning to question whether the nation’s embrace of prosecution is the best tool for shaping behavior and whether incarceratio

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