States should decriminalize offenses such as feeding the homeless, dog-leash violations, and turnstile jumping on the subway. Such reform is vital: between 1972 and 2006, misdemeanor prosecutions rose from 5 million to 10.5 million.
America’s addiction to incarceration as a curb on crime must end. The evidence is staggering. Prison overcrowding is ubiquitous and shows few signs of abating: Between 1970 and 2005, the nation’s inmate population grew by 700 percent.
In California, 54 prisoners may share a single toilet and 200 prisoners may live in a single gymnasium. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled in May 2011 that California prisons were in violation of the Eighth Amendment and its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Here, attorney Arjun Sethi offers four solutions to improve the overcrowded US prison system.