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Programs use alternatives to incarceration for violent crimes

The FIRST STEP Act, which became a law in 2018, may affect some federal prisoners in Georgia who were convicted of nonviolent crimes, but a large portion of the prison population will not benefit from this reform. However, some jurisdictions are working to introduce alternatives to incarceration, even for people who have committed violent crimes, with some success.

While it is important to prioritize public safety, some crimes that are classified as violent, such as simple assault, may not involve physical harm to another person. Furthermore, long prison sentences may increase recidivism in some cases while some alternative programs have been shown to reduce it. Not all violent offenders go on to commit another crime.

A program in New York City that is part of the city's overall effort in recent decades to significantly reduce its prison population allows mentally ill offenders to receive treatment while remaining in the community. Compared to other defendants, they have a 29 percent lower reconviction rate. Reducing the prison population has been a priority for some time among some lawmakers and advocates. In 2008, the rate of incarceration reached a high of 1,000 incarcerated people for every 100,000 adults. That has been reduced to 830 per 100,000. Judges are a critical factor in keeping the population down, but they need effective alternative programs in place.

Whether people are facing charges for violent crimes or for less serious offenses, they may want to contact an attorney to discuss their options. An attorney might take into account whether they have any previous convictions, what the evidence is and how the case was investigated. For example, a person's rights may have been violated if evidence was obtained illegally. In some cases, a plea bargain, which can allow a person to plead guilty to lesser charges and get a lighter sentence, may be appropriate.

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