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Churchill: As incarceration rates fall, jails still rise

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COXSACKIE — Inmate populations are falling. So why do we keep building jails?

Schoharie and Herkimer counties are constructing new jails expected to open next year, and Greene County is about to break ground on a similarly costly mistake.

The rural county to the south of Albany is ready to spend $47 million, not including interest, on a jail that will largely sit empty and burden taxpayers for decades to come. The building, planned for Route 9W in Coxsackie, is a white elephant in the making.

In part, that's because attitudes toward jails and prisons are changing, with conservatives and liberals alike concluding it's financially and morally absurd for the United States, the supposed land of the free, to have the world's highest incarceration rate.

We're realizing that long sentences for nonviolent criminals do much more harm than good; that putting so many people in prison further destabilizes poor neighborhoods and families; that prison often turns nonviolent offenders into hardened criminals; and that prison sentences often have more to do with the wealth and race of the perpetrator than the seriousness of the........

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