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Exploring incarceration alternatives for certain offenders

Incarceration rates in Wyoming and other states have been steadily declining following a peak in 2009. Since this time, many municipalities and jurisdictions have been offering alternative sentences for low-level offenses. There have also been reforms with certain police procedures, and some minor offenses have been decriminalized. Such efforts have resulted in a noticeable reduction in incarceration rates in the United States. In 2018, the FIRST STEP Act, which reduces sentences for non-violent offenses, was signed into law.

While supporters of lessening sentence severity for some drug crimes and other non-violent offenses welcome the FIRST STEP Act, they note that it only applies to a fraction of federal inmates. This is why there is a push to encourage additional state and local reform to reduce the incarceration population, which is estimated to include more than 2 million men and women.

Most supporters of sentencing reform admit certain individuals who committed violent crimes need to be incarcerated because they are a threat to the general population. What sentence reform proponents are focusing on are efforts to explore viable alternatives to incarceration for appropriate candidates. This includes a call to allow judges more freedom with sentencing since some laws are written in a way that stipulates what the sentence must be regardless of the circumstances involved. It should be noted that "violent crime" is a broad category that can also include simple assault and similar acts that may not involve serious physical harm.

When an individual is charged with a state or federal drug crime or a similar crime that includes potentially serious sentences, an attorney could size up the situation and present legal options. If the circumstances are right, a criminal defense lawyer might attempt to have charges reduced or dismissed.

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