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February 21, 2022

Decarceration /dē-ˌkär-sə-ˈrā-shən/ noun

Definition:  Decarceration is the opposite of the practice of incarceration. It is a practice or policy involved in reducing the population of a prison, jail, or other inmate-holding facilities. The primary meaning of decarceration focuses on releasing prisoners and reducing the number of incarcerated persons in a holding facility.

Many of today’s prisons and jails practice decarceration when they release prisoners early for good behavior. Some county and municipal jails allow prisoners to earn specific amounts of “good time” by following prison rules. When a prisoner has accumulated enough “good time,” jailers could potentially reward them with a reduction in sentencing and, often, an early release.

Etymology: The first recorded use of decarceration was in the early 1970s. In 1973, they used the term in the manner described above when they enacted early release policies in jails and prisons. It was used to describe a legal reduction in a prison population.

In a Sentence

The pandemic spawned a global decarceration movement for non-violent offenders.

The prison implemented strict decarceration measures to reduce its population.

Decarceration is a humane alternative to overcrowded county jails and prisons.


Escape, Release


Captivity, Imprisonment


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