Saturday December 7, 2019
Home Lead Story Prisons Face ...

Prisons Face Population Drop in The U.S.

The U.S. has long had the unenviable distinction of holding the world's largest prison population, in part because of tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1990s.

0
//
The Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, NY. VOA

The U.S. has long had the unenviable distinction of holding the world’s largest prison population, in part because of tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1990s.

But sentencing reforms passed in recent years appear to have made a dent, leading to declines in the population over the past eight years.

A criminal justice reform organization reported Friday that in 2017, the U.S. prison population dropped below 1.5 million for the first time in more than a decade.

The decline, according to the Washington-based Vera Institute for Justice, was driven by a sharp decrease in the number of inmates in federal prisons and decreases in several states with large prison populations.

Total U.S. prison population dropped to 1,486,000 last year, a decline of nearly 16,000. The number of federal prisoners fell to 183,000, and the number of inmates in state prisons declined to 1.3 million, according to the report. (The overall figure does not include the more than 600,000 defendants held in local, state and federal jails.)

US
U.S.A Flag. Pixabay

The decline extended an eight-year downward trend in U.S. prison population that has been driven by federal and state sentencing reforms enacted over the past decade. But the Vera institute cautioned that it was unclear whether the trend would continue.

“Whether criminal justice reform can continue to fuel this sustained decline in the prison population remains to be seen,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, senior research associate at Vera. “We must continue to do the hard work, as advocates and agents of change, to ensure that all our communities feel the relief of decarceration.”

The report came as President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to help former inmates reintegrate into society and avoid going back to prison, as many do.

“We want former inmates to find a path to success so they can support their families and support their communities,” Trump said at a White House summit on prison reform attended by two state governors and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who is spearheading the effort. “Crucial to this effort is helping former prisoners find jobs.”

“Nobody wins when former prisoners fail to adjust to life outside, or worse, end up back behind bars,” Trump said.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers remarks during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers remarks during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2018.

Saying that 3 in 4 inmates released from prison have difficulty finding jobs, Trump said his prison reform program aims to expand work opportunities and other programs that would allow inmates to “re-enter society with the skills to get a job.”

White House officials said Trump supports legislation that promotes “evidence-based risk and needs assessments” of prisoners and expands prison work programs, among other initiatives. They did not specify the legislation.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on legislation that hews closely to the White House’s prison reform agenda. The First Step Act, recently passed by the House Judiciary Committee, calls for “risk and needs assessment” of prisoners and expands recidivism-reduction programs for prisoners.

Also Read: US Embassy in Jerusalem is Doing More Harm Than Any Good

But the legislation is facing growing pressure. A group of influential Democrats in Congress expressed opposition to the bill on Thursday, saying it has “fundamental flaws” and that “meaningful criminal justice reform must include sentencing reform.” (VOA)

Next Story

Population Threatened by Climate Change-Triggered Flooding about Three Times Higher than Previously Thought

And if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue unabated and Antarctic ice melts more in a worst-case scenario, around 500 million people could be

0
Population, Climate, Flooding
Cars drive through a flooded road at the entrance to Long Beach Island in Ship Bottom, N.J. on Oct. 11, 2019. VOA

The number of people threatened by climate change-triggered flooding is about three times higher than previously thought, a new study says. But it’s not because of more water. Population.

It’s because the land, especially in Asia and the developing world, is several feet lower than what space-based radar has calculated, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications Tuesday.

So instead of 80 million people living in low-lying areas that would flood annually by 2050 as the world warms, this new study finds the population at risk is closer to 300 million people.

And if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue unabated and Antarctic ice melts more in a worst-case scenario, around 500 million people could be at risk by the end of the century, according to the study by Climate Central , a New Jersey based non-profit of scientists and journalists.

Population, Climate, Flooding
It’s because the land, especially in Asia and the developing world, is several feet lower than what space-based radar has calculated, according to a study. Pixabay

Space-based radar says 170 million are at risk in that scenario.

For big picture global mapping of flooding threats, the go-to technology for elevation is NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission . But that doesn’t accurately show ground, instead mistaking rooftops and tree canopies for ground with an average error of 6.5 feet (2 meters), said Climate Central chief executive officer Ben Strauss, a scientist who studies sea level rise.

For the United States, much of Europe and Australia, this is not a problem because those areas use airborne lidar radar, which is more accurate about true elevation. But in flood prone Asia and other places that’s not an option, Strauss said.

So Climate Central used the shuttle radar, artificial intelligence and 23 different variables to create a computer model that is more accurate in globally mapping elevation, Strauss said. They then tested it against the airplane-generated data in the United States and Australia and found this computer model was accurate, he said.

Also Read- Why Is LazyPay Considered As One of the Fastest and Simplest Payment Options?

“This is a far greater problem than we understood,” Strauss said. “Far more people live in risky places today than we thought and the problem only multiplies in the future.”

He said the new model found “a huge difference” in elevation in places such as Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta and Mumbai.

Five outside sea level rise experts said the study highlighted a problem with current data, especially in Asia.

“This study represents very significant progress in the understanding of the risk which climate change-related sea level will cause for hundreds of million of people before the end of this century,” said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium.  “If hundreds or even tens of millions of people are flooded in Asia or Africa, it will create social and economic disruptions on a huge scale.”

Population, Climate, Flooding

So instead of 80 million people living in low-lying areas that would flood annually by 2050 as the world warms, this new study finds the population at risk is closer to 300 million people. Pixabay

University of Colorado’s Steve Nerem said the problem is real, but he isn’t sold on the new model yet, partly because it is based on the shuttle radar to begin with.

Also Read- Protected Designation Not Reducing Human Encroachment in Vulnerable Areas

It does highlight an issue that needs to be fixed, said Katy Serafin at the University of Florida. “The longer we wait to address this, the less time we will have to develop adaptive and sustainable solutions to coastal flooding.” (VOA)