The United States holds the record for the most incarcerated individuals in the entire world. In 2008, the numbers peaked with 1,000 out of every 100,000 adults being in state or federal prisons. Since this time, many jurisdictions, including those in New York, have instituted a variety of changes to decrease this number. This includes reformations in police practices, decriminalization of some minor offenses and offering rehabilitation options to low-risk offenders. As a result of the changes, incarcerations have decreased to 830 per every 100,000 adults in the United States.

In 2018, the First Step Act was passed by Congress. The newly-instituted law helps reduce sentences for nonviolent federal prisoners through work training programs and good behavior. Though many criminal defense experts believe the First Step Act was a positive step, it only affects a small fraction of federal prisoners and doesn’t affect those in state prisons. Experts are encouraging additional changes in order to reduce the current prison population.

One idea is looking at individual cases of violent prisoners to determine if they may be candidates for alternative programs. Though some violent offenders must continue to be incarcerated due to being a threat to public safety, some studies suggest that cognitive behavior therapy can help decrease repeat offenders by 50 percent. Other options include education, work programs and mental health programs that treat the mental health disorders that could be the cause of many crimes.

People who have been charged with a crime have guaranteed rights under the United States Constitution. Police must follow certain procedures in order to not violate the rights of detained individuals. If these rights are violated, charges may be reduced or dropped. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to help determine if the police didn’t follow the required protocol. In this case, a lawyer may be able to recommend that an individual charged with a crime be a candidate for an alternative program to avoid being incarcerated in prison.