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How Congress Can Cut Criminal Justice Spending (and Fight HIV): FAMM's Plan

By Rachel Farris

April 26, 2011

This article was provided by the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.

How Congress Can Cut Criminal Justice Spending (and Fight HIV): FAMM's Plan

One of the social drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that we here at the HIV PJA are working to address is the intersection of HIV and mass imprisonment. Our criminal justice system fuels the epidemic in a number of ways, from the individual to the community level, with a disproportionate effect on people of color. (For a high-level overview of mass imprisonment as a social driver of HIV, check out this fact sheet from CHAMP/Project UNSHACKLE. A comprehensive organizing toolkit around these issues, put together by Project UNSHACKLE, can be found here.)

The AIDS crisis isn't the only thing fueled by our prison system: it also bloats the federal budget. FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) recently circulated a brief plan outlining how to trim the budget through prison and sentencing reform. Many of the steps they suggest Congress should take would have a positive ripple effect on the fight to reduce imprisonment as a driver of HIV, particularly reform of drug-sentencing laws and the implementation of a policy to release prisoners who are ill.

The bottom line is surprisingly simple, for such a complex, far-reaching set of problems. Sentencing reform is good health policy, good social policy, and good financial policy. Prison reform must be supported by HIV/AIDS activists as a key part of a comprehensive strategy to end the epidemic. Thanks to FAMM for spelling out some immediate policy recommendations to move us further down this road.

This piece was cross-posted at

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