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The Wyoming Justice Project believes prison should be reserved for dangerous offenders who pose a risk to community safety. We need to find solutions to deal with drug offenders and those who commit property crimes in other manners. There needs to be bail reform which gives those accused of crimes, who are not public safety risks, the opportunity to stay in the community. Treatment for those incarcerated should be mandatory so they have the skills to become successful once they are released.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Higher than any communist nation or dictatorship. In 2016, 2.2 million adults were in prison or jail in the U.S. Our nation spends approximately $80 billion per year on the incarceration and supervision of criminals. According to the ACLU, the U.S. has five percent of the world’s population and a stunning twenty-five percent of the global population of incarcerated inmates. Approximately one in every thirty-six adults in the U.S. are under some form of correctional supervision.

In Wyoming, the problem is even worse. The federal government and the rest of the nation have recognized the need for criminal justice reform and addressing mass incarceration. The national rate of incarceration has started to come down in the last few years. This is also the case with many states. However, Wyoming’s rate has continued to climb and is now far above the national average. In 2017, Wyoming had the third highest growth of incarceration in the country. This is despite a reduction of crime in Wyoming.

Efforts in Wyoming have finally started to attempt to lower the prison population. However, only time will tell what will actually be implemented and if the efforts will be meaningful or successful.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2016 that two-third of those being held in local jail cells had not been convicted of a crime. These individuals simply could not afford to post a bond to be released.

To their credit, the Wyoming State Legislature and Wyoming Department of Corrections have tried and continue to try to initiate efforts to reduce incarceration numbers. However, changes need to be greater in scope and judges, prosecutors and the public need to join the effort.

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