Mass incarceration in California and nationwide has placed millions of people behind bars. Criminal justice activists, however, have started to reverse the trend of locking people up. In 2008, mass incarceration reached its height with 1,000 people held in corrections per 100,000 adults. Now the rate has fallen to 830 inmates per 100,000. The decriminalization of minor offenses and expansion of alternatives to jail for people convicted of low-level offenses have contributed to this drop in incarceration rates.
According to reformers, the increased empowerment of judges represents a crucial step in reducing incarceration and recidivism. When judges have the option to choose alternative sentencing for low-risk defendants, they can direct people into cognitive behavioral therapy programs that could build their conflict resolutions skills. Such guidance could be appropriate for people charged with minor assaults that did not cause physical harm. Other programs designed for people struggling with mental health issues could provide treatment.
Tools that apply scientific algorithms to calculate the risks posed by individuals could aid judges with their sentencing decisions. Low-risk offenders involved in alternative sentencing programs commit fewer future crimes compared to people who go to jail. The programs appear to bolster people's connection to society.
An upsetting situation or bad decision could leave someone confronted by assault charges. However, a criminal defense attorney could help an accused person understand their options. An attorney might get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor or a case dismissed completely if the evidence is unclear. Legal advice could help someone evaluate the terms of a plea deal or make the decision to pursue a jury trial. In both situations, an attorney could communicate the defendant's side of the story and pursue a lenient outcome.