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Alternative sentencing methods may reduce recidivism rates

There has been a movement in Texas and throughout the country to reform the way that the justice system treats convicted criminals. On the federal level, the First Step Act may reduce sentences and offer other forms of leniency for nonviolent offenders. These efforts have reduced the incarceration rate in the United States, and it looks like the trend could continue. In 2008, there were roughly 1,000 inmates per 100,000 adults in the country.

That number has dropped to 830 inmates per 100,000 adults. However, it may be possible to further reduce that rate by providing leniency to people convicted of violent crimes. Alternative programs have played a role in the number of people in New York City jails declining from 21,000 in 1991 to about 8,200 today. In Brooklyn, the Mental Health Court offers defendants that opportunity to get help for their illnesses.

The program requires participants to come to court periodically to ensure that they are complying with its terms. Researchers have found that the recidivism rate for participants is 29 percent lower than those who were not given the chance to take part. This is partially attributed to the judge who runs the court as he is seen as empathetic to the needs of those who he comes across.

Someone charged with a crime may benefit from having the counsel of a criminal attorney defense. Legal counsel could help a defendant negotiate a plea deal or obtain a full acquittal. Plea deals may allow an individual to remain out of jail either on a suspended sentence or probation. A deal may be more likely in cases involving nonviolent offenses or where the evidence against the defendant may be considered problematic.

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