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HOPE for the Criminal Justice System
By Judge Steven S. Alm
America spends more money to incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. There are currently about 2.3 million people in local, state, and federal incarceration and about 4.3
million adults on probation in the United States. As a judge and former
prosecutor, I know that some offenders are violent and dangerous and
need to be in prison to protect public safety. Many other offenders,
however, do not belong in prison and can be safely supervised in the
community. It has been said, and rightly so, that judges should send to
prison people we are afraid of, or who will not stop stealing, not
people who have made us mad.
How can we protect public safety and reduce the prison population? One
way is by fixing the probation and parole systems, particularly for
those with drug and alcohol issues. Typically, probation violations —
positive drug tests, missed appointments, refusals to attend or complete
treatment — are met with a scolding by the probation o
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