The following article appears in the 10/14/2015 edition of MinnPost.

Despite crime rates going down in the United States, our rates of incarceration continue to increase. Rather than build new prisons, it’s time to take a look at the way we are sentencing to make sure the people we send to prison actually belong there. Oftentimes, they don’t.

The newly established Prison Population Task Force met recently to discuss Minnesota’s growing prison population – something that is not unique to our state, but is a growing trend in a country that’s home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but makes up 25 percent of its inmates. The United States has 2.2 million people behind bars as of 2015, making us the most incarcerated nation in the world.

There has been some recent good news, however, as the Justice Department recently announced that 6,000 federal inmates will be released early in an effort to reduce overcrowding and relieve nonviolent drug offenders of the harsh sentences they’ve received over the past three decades. This is a promising development, but it’s important to remember the dire necessity of looking at both sentencing reform and the disproportionate demographics of those who land in federal prison.

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