There are more than 1.5 million Americans under the supervision of state and federal correctional facilities, at a cost of more than $30,000 per prisoner every year. While some criminal laws and sanctions are necessary to protect safety and ensure justice, criminalized actions now include many normal, everyday activities that average Americans and business owners have little way of knowing are crimes. As a result, well-meaning, law-abiding American citizens and business owners spend innumerable hours and dollars fending off criminal prosecution for actions they never suspected were illegal, and states spend millions incarcerating nonthreatening individuals.
States cannot afford the budgetary costs of imprisoning nonviolent individuals who acted without criminal intentions, and society cannot afford the human costs of incarcerating individuals who do not need to be imprisoned to protect public safety.
To help combat this problem, the Justice Performance Project released a new report, “Criminalizing America – How Big Government Makes a Criminal of Every American.” This report outlines the problem of overcriminalization in the states, explains how it harms both the U.S. economy and individual liberty, and proposes common-sense solutions for state policymakers seeking to stem the tide of overreaching criminal laws.