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US imprisonment rate falls to lowest since 1997: Justice Department

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The U.S. prison population fell the most in almost four decades to 1.53 million inmates in 2015, resulting in the lowest rate of incarceration in a generation, the Department of Justice said on Thursday.

The drop has been driven by changes in federal and state corrections policies that include drug treatment programs and the sentencing of fewer nonviolent drug offenders to federal prisons, the department said in its year-end report on prison populations.

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Roughly one in 37 U.S. adults was under some form of correctional supervision at the end of 2015, the lowest rate since 1994.

The number of federal and state inmates at the end of 2015 was down by 35,500, or 2.3 percent, from the year before, in the biggest drop since 1978, it said.

At the end of last year, there were 458 prisoners sentenced to more than a year in state or federal prison for every 100,000 U.S. residents. That number was the lowest since 1997, when it was 444, the report said.

Forty percent of the decline in the U.S. prison population was among federal inmates, whose numbers fell more than 7 percent to 196,500, marking a third straight year of declines.

The Justice Department’s one-time early release of about 6,000 nonviolent drug offenders in late 2015 accounted for much of the federal drop. President Barack Obama also has shortened the sentences of 1,176 federal inmates, including 153 last week.

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In state prisons, the number of inmates decreased by almost 2 percent to 1.33 million from 2014 to 2015, and 29 states showed a drop in the number of their prisoners.

With the drop last year, the number of state and federal inmates has declined about 6 percent since peaking in 2009 but is still well above the level of 300,000 in 1978, the oldest data provided in the report.

On an average day in 2015, an estimated 721,300 inmates also were being held in city or county jails, where prisoners normally are housed ahead of trial.

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When people on probation or parole were added to the prison and jail populations, an estimated 6.74 million people were under the supervision of U.S. adult correctional systems at the end of last year, the report said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Stve Orlofsky)

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Impeachment: Trump’s ‘hearsay’ defense just crashed and burned

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In the panoply of contradictory and incoherent defenses of Donald Trump, a favorite of Republicans has been to harp on the claim that witnesses to Trump's extortion scheme against Ukraine were all "second-hand" or "third-hand." This has always been confounding, as the official summary readout of the famous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows Trump clearly conditioning military aid and U.S. support on Zelensky giving a public boost to Trump's conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders. The witnesses so far have simply affirmed what the written record demonstrates amply.

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Jim Jordan’s attacks on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman at impeachment hearing badly backfire

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Republicans tried to raise doubts about Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s credibility and loyalty during Tuesday’s impeachment hearing. Their attacks appeared to backfire.

Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council and an Iraq war veteran who earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat, faced questions from the House Intelligence Committee in full uniform.

This piece first appeared at Salon.com.Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was transferred to the Intelligence Committee specifically for the impeachment hearings, attempted to discredit the witness during his questioning.

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WATCH: Dejected Devin Nunes slumps back in his chair after he fails to yield his time to Elise Stefanik

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The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee was visibly frustrated after once again getting shut down while attempting a parliamentary maneuver.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has been attempting to ignore the rules governing the impeachment inquiry so that he can yield Republicans' time to fellow members of Congress, instead of just the professional GOP counsel.

Nunes has attempted to yield time to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who has been raising re-election funds off of her outbursts in the hearings.

Once again, Nunes attempted to yield his time to a fellow Republican and once again Nunes was told that is against the rules.

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