Peter Enns, associate professor of government at Cornell and an expert on public opinion and its effect on policy, says that introduction of the REDEEM Act by senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is an important first step in breaking the cycle of incarceration for non-violent offenders.

Enns says:

“Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, says that criminal justice reform has become politically popular. Indeed, my research shows that public opinion has indeed been moving in a less punitive direction.

“This matters because public opinion since 1953 has been a fundamental determining factor in why incarceration rates have increased — and my research shows that politicians have followed, not led, public attitudes.

“The U.S. incarcerates a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the world. We may now be seeing a political response to public opinion moving in the other direction.”

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