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Incarceration in America

Joliet Felony Incarceration JailDid you know that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world? According to recent data, there are currently over 2.2 million people in prisons and jails across the nation, some serving short sentences and some facing life in prison. For every 100,000 people in America, there are 698 in jail or prison. Compare that with other developed nations, like Australia, where 151 people per 100,000 are incarcerated, or France, where 100 people per 100,000 are incarcerated, and it is clear that the United States has a major problem. How did America’s incarceration rate grow to be so high? Is more crime being committed here? What is being done to lowering prison populations? How does Illinois’ prison data compare to elsewhere in the country? Below, we explore incarceration in America.

Why Are So Many People Incarcerated?

According to the Sentencing Project , a nonprofit organization advocating for an improved criminal justice system in America, the incarceration rate in America has seen a 500 percent increase in just the last 40 years. Why the increase? Advocates say that the problem is not more criminals, or more crime being committed, but rather a harsher criminal justice system. Policy changes have led to a “tough on crime” mentality that has remained since its adoption in the early 1980s at the start of the War on Drugs. In 1980, 41,000 people were in jail or prison due to drug related charges. In 2014, that number jumped to nearly half a million. Additionally, the number of people in jail or prison for property or violent crimes has also increased substantially, even during times where crime rates have dipped.
In addition to sending more people to prison, sentences have grown increasingly harsh. Laws have been put in place requiring a mandatory minimum sentence and parole has been cut back, leading to an increase in prison populations. Also, life sentences have risen significantly. Currently, one in nine people in prison are serving life sentences, and nearly a third of them have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mass Incarceration Does Not Affect Every Community Equally

Unfortunately, mass incarceration affects African American and Hispanic men and women significantly more than white men and women. While people of color currently make up 37 percent of the entire US population, they account for 67 percent of the US prison population. Specialists say that, in general, African Americans are more likely to be arrested when compared to white people, and once arrested, African Americans are more likely to be convicted and face harsh sentences. Latino men and women also face a higher likelihood of arrest, conviction, and harsh punishment.

How Does Illinois Compare?

Illinois has a substantial prison population. In 2014, $1.5 billion was spent on corrections, and at that time there were nearly 50,000 individuals incarcerated statewide. Racial disparities are also a major issue in Illinois. For every white person incarcerated in an Illinois prison, there are 8.8 African Americans and 1.6 Hispanics. Men also represent a significant majority of those imprisoned in Illinois, with only 2,888 women incarcerated in Illinois in 2014 compared to 45,390 men.

Is Mass Incarceration Effective?

While crime rates in America have declined substantially over recent years, specialists say mass imprisonment has little to do with the drop. According to The National Research Council, prison growth did play a part in reducing crime, but the evidence suggests its impact is minimal. Why is mass incarceration ineffective? Drugs will continue to be a problem, no matter how many people are arrested. Additionally, gang activity and youth crime are largely unaffected by mass incarceration, as others can easily replace those arrested and imprisoned. Also, lengthy prison sentences are a problem. Studies show that people tend to “age out” of crime, meaning that by their 30s and 40s, the likelihood of committing a crime drops substantially.
You do not need to become another statistic. If you are facing criminal charges, you need the help of a qualified Will County criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 to learn more about how we can help you today.

Collateral Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Illinois

Joliet Felony AttorneyWhen facing a possible felony conviction , most defendants automatically turn their thoughts to the time they stand to serve in prison. This is an understandable reaction. However, there are consequences that extend well beyond the term of your sentence. In fact, a felony conviction – be it for sexual assault, first degree murder, or a felony drug crime – can follow you for the rest of your life. If you are facing felony charges in the state of Illinois, understand what these collateral consequences are, and how you can most effectively protect yourself against them.

Employment Opportunities

A felony conviction goes on your permanent criminal record. This bars you from certain professions – at least 118 of them, according to the Illinois General Assembly Legislative Research Unit . A study from the National Institute of Justice also indicates that you are 50 percent less likely to receive a call back on almost any other job if you have a felony conviction on your record. With all of these employment restrictions, it can seem impossible to find a job that adequately supports you and your family after you have completed your prison term.

Housing Opportunities
In addition to restricting your employment opportunities, a felony conviction can negatively affect your ability to find housing. Many landlords explicitly refuse to extend housing to anyone with a felony conviction. Those who are willing to approve you are not much better since, often, they request a higher deposit to move in. Furthermore, there are certain felonies that may restrict how close you can live to places like schools, daycares, and other locations where there may be children.

Sex Offender Registries

Those who have been convicted of certain felony sex crimes certain felony sex crimes have more than just limited employment and housing opportunities to contend with. These individuals also face social judgment, thanks to the requirement that they register with the state’s sex offender registry. Searchable by anyone and everyone – your neighbors, public school teachers and principals, employers, even complete strangers – a listing on this registry can make you feel like more than just a felon; it can make you feel like a social outcast.

Protect Your Rights with Help from an Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney

No matter what your charge, no matter how convincing the evidence against you may be, it is critical that you seek help from an aggressive criminal defense attorney. This can ensure your rights are protected. In some cases, it may even give you exactly the help you need to mitigate or completely dismiss your charges. Do not take chances. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer today and get the legal guidance you need.

Diverting Your Criminal Case to a Specialty Court: Are You Eligible and Should You Agree?

Joliet Alternate Court SentenceIn Illinois, some criminal charges can be diverted to a specialty court. These alternative solutions —also known as diversion court—give you the chance to prove to the courts that your mistake was just a one-time occurrence. As long as you successfully complete the terms of your diversion, the criminal charge does not go on your record. Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for this option, and even those that are should carefully consider whether or not diversion is the right choice for their situation. The following information can help in making that decision.

Types of Diversion

Through diversion court, the justice system attempts to address the core issue behind a defendant’s criminal offense. This is why there are different types of diversion court; each is meant to deal with a specific issue. Those that are currently available in Illinois include:
• Traffic court diversion;
• Mental health specialty court;
• Veterans’ specialty courts;
• Drug courts (includes all drug diversion options); and

To qualify for any one of these diversion options , you must meet certain criteria. For example, some drug diversion courts accept offenders with any general substance abuse disorder, but others only take those that have been charged with a specific drug-related crime. You must also voluntarily agree to participate in the program, and you cannot have any violent crimes over the last ten years to qualify for a specialty court option.

Is Diversion the Right Option for Your Situation?

Even if you do qualify for diversion, it is critical that you consider all of your options before you accept. Know the strengths of your case, and if you have any chance at having the charges dismissed without diversion. Also, be certain that you fully understand the terms of your diversion. Failure to successfully complete the program will generally result in a criminal conviction, possible jail time, and other consequences, such as fines and penalties. You should also know what to do if you ever violate the terms of your diversion (you may be given a chance to make it right), and how it could affect your case. Lastly, know your odds of conviction if you take your case to trial, and what it would mean for your future.

We Can Help You Decide

If you are facing criminal charges and considering diversion, contact a Joliet criminal defense lawyer to ensure that you have all of the facts and understand all of your options before you accept. Dedicated to helping you get back to your life as soon as possible, we carefully examine your case, answer all of your questions, and will aggressively protect your rights and best interest. To learn more about how we can assist with your criminal case, schedule your free initial consultation today.

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