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US States Attempting to Lower Head Count in Jails

officer leading someone in cellMore people are in jails and prisons in the United States than in any other country in the world. As our prisons start to fill up, lawmakers have to start making decisions that lower the overall number of incarcerated individuals to a reasonable number, while keeping the general public out of harms way.

Lawmakers in several states have recently made moves towards lowering the overall number of incarcerated people. Here are a few recent highlights:

In California, the Senate passed a bill that allows prosecutors - under their discretion - decide to prosecute drug possession (of any substance) as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Alaska passed a similar bill, except it would always classify drug possession as a misdemeanor. The bill passed in the Senate, and is now headed to the House.

 Img Src: http://lostbehindbars.webs.com/jail2.jpg 

New Jersey is looking at a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession, and North Carolina is considering lowering the sentence for drug trafficking in the state, provided defendants meet certain conditions.

In Connecticut, the courts are considering reducing the size of the "school zone" in the state as in pertains to drug charges. As the law stands now, drug charges in a school zone carry a higher penalty than those elsewhere.

Vermont is taking a look at how much it would cost to incarcerate someone for a non-violent offense, before passing down a ruling. In theory, a judge might choose to not require jail time for non-violent offenders based on the cost involved.

Rhode Island is looking at lowering the penalties for a number of different petty crimes, including disorderly conduct, shoplifting, and driving with a suspended license.

Should all these bills pass, we'll be looking at more lenient laws in many of our states, particularly around drug charges. We'll also see more people doing community service and time back in their community rather than filling up our prison system. 

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