Kentucky's jails and prisons are overflowing. Does the state spend more money to build more capacity or should it reform its sentencing laws?
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The "get tough" crime control policies of the last 30 years are now bearing a bitter harvest. Some 20 million individuals pass through our jails each year, while 2.2 million adults are incarcerated in prisons. We have one of the highest, if not the highest, per capital incarceration rates in the world.
Yet the research suggests that sanctions alone are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Rehabilitation programs have been shown to reduce recidivism anywhere from 10-30 percent, while sanctions alone tend to increase the probability of future offending.
So do we spend more money locking up people for longer periods of time while doing little to address the underlying causes of street crime (mental health, substance abuse, and lack of education) or do we try to prevent crime by investing in treatment and alternatives to incarceration?