Jail populations shrink but growing problems remain

By Robert Rooks, Director of NAACP's Criminal Justice Program

Cross-posted from TheGrio.Com

Last week, federal officials announced a decrease in our nation's jail population for the first time since 1982. This comes at a time when overall crime is down despite this being the worst economic recession in decades. Although the announced decrease in jail population is a promising bit of news, reactions should be measured.

The US is 5 percent of the world's population and has 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Over the last 30 years, the US criminal justice system experienced the second largest increase in government investment, second only to health care. Last year, as state budget shortfalls loomed, 31 states cut education budgets while increasing money for incarceration.

Unless we support ongoing efforts to downscale prisons and jails, our country will literally go broke and funds for other public sector ventures will dry up.