February 10, 2009
Another prominent (minority) athlete in trouble for lying about steriod use
The latest news on the steroid litigation front has to make Roger Clemens plenty worried. Here is today's steroid development as reported in this Bloomberg article:
Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada was charged with lying to Congress about performance- enhancing drug use in Major League Baseball. Tejada “unlawfully, willingly and knowingly” failed to tell everything he knew about an unidentified player’s use of steroids and human growth hormone during meetings with the congressional investigators in August 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said in a criminal information filed today in Washington.
A criminal information can’t be filed in a felony case without the consent of the defendant, according to Sullivan & Cromwell attorney Karen Patton Seymour, former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. “Typically, consent is given when a plea agreement has been reached or is very close,” Seymour said in an interview.
Tejada, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who has a U.S. work permit, is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Washington tomorrow at 11 a.m., a spokesman for the court said.
I didn't even know that Tejada was in the cross-hairs of federal investigators, and it will be interesting to see what kind of deal might have already been put together before this story broke.
Whatever the particulars are related to Tejada, this latest federal charge makes me even more eager to see Roger Clemens subject to federal prosecution for his apparently false testimony to Congress. Few persons were even aware that prominent minority defendants like Marion Jones and Barry Bonds and now Miguel Tejada ever testified about their alleged steroid use. But Roger Clemens brazenly asked to testify before Congress and then offered testimony that did not seem at all credible (at least to me). The percpetion of equal justice will be poorly served if only prominent minority altheles face charges for lying about steroid use.
Some related posts:
- Marion Jones gets six-month federal prison term
- Feds get another conviction in steroid investigations
- Another federal sentence for another athlete lying about steroid use
- A fascinating prosecutorial critique of the steroid investigation
Why do defense wins in sentencing appeals often go unpublished?
I tend not to be a strong believer in conspiracy theories, but this news story about a significant defense victory in an unpublished Fourth Circuit sentencing ruling leds me to again wonder why so many important defense wins in sentencing appeals often go unpublished? First, here is the press account:
A federal appeals court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a former Robeson County sheriff who admitted lying about corruption in his department. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled Monday that U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle erred in June when he sentenced Glenn Maynor to six years in prison. Boyle did not adequately explain the sentence, the appeals court ruled....
"The court's perceived need to right the wrongs that occurred in Robeson County since the 1950s is an inappropriate basis for a variance sentence, since Maynor was indisputably not responsible for any wrongdoing prior to 1994," the court said.
The full opinion in US v. Maynor is available here; it is officially unpublished, but includes lots of interesting and important passages such as this one:
While, after the sentencing hearing, the court provided a report checking certain § 3553 factors as the basis for its decision, this report was insufficient to satisfy the court’s duty to make an individualized assessment of Maynor’s circumstances and provide an explanation of sentence. The court relied on irrelevant and faulty assumptions and failed to tie these assumptions to the § 3553 factors. The large variance in this case required significant analysis that is simply absent. Accordingly, we conclude that the court abused its discretion when imposing sentence and that the court’s errors require that Maynor be resentenced.
Regular readers may recall some other big defense wins that were left unpublished, such as the lone decision (from the Ninth Circuit) finding a within-guideline sentence sunstantively unreasonable in Paul (noted here) and the important decision (from the Second Circuit) upholding a huge downward variance in Adelson (noted here). It is bad enough that defendants rarely win major sentencing appeals. It is worse, and quite disturbing, that many circuit courts seem to want to have the rare defense win go unnoticed.
Meanwhile, as evidenced by two big published rulings today by the Tenth Circuit, circuit judges usually make sure that major losses by defendants get the full published treatment. In US v. Friedman, No. 07-4118 (10th Cir. Feb. 10, 2009) (available here), a defendant has his below-guideline sentence reversed in a published opinion, and in US v. Yanez-Rodriguez, No. 08-2100 (10th Cir. Feb. 10, 2009) (available here), a defendant has his above-guideline sentence affirmed in a published opinion.
Another prominent federal felon gets prominent TV gig
I always find it interesting how easy it is for the rich and famous to move past federal felony convictions. Martha Stewart, some may recall, made lots of money during her incarceration because her company's stock rose significant while she served her federal prison sentence. And Stewart's television show is still going strong.
Now, according to this news report, headlined "Rapper Lil' Kim joins 'Dancing with the Stars'," another well-known federal felon is going to get some notable post-release screen time:
Grammy-award winning rapper Lil' Kim, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor will hit the floor for "Dancing With the Stars" when the show returns for an 8th season in March, ABC said on Monday....
Johnson, 17, who won an Olympic gold medal at the Beijing games in 2008, is the youngest ever competitor on the hit show which returns with a two-hour season premiere on March 9.
Singer and actress Lil' Kim, 33, spent a year in prison in 2005 after being found guilty of perjury and conspiracy for lying about the involvement of her friends in a 2001 shooting in New York....
"Dancing With the Stars" has proved a ratings smash for ABC. Its last season, which ended in September 2008, drew about 19 million viewers per episode.
It is nice to see that at least some prominent persons do not have their lives completely changed by federal felony convictions (though, as regular readers know, apparently these felons forever lost their Second Amendment rights by virtue of their convictions). Perhaps Stewart and Lil' Kim can become official celebrity endorsers of the federal Second Chance Act.
Next stop SCOTUS (or settlement) for California prison litigation?
This morning's New York Times article about yesterday's tentative ruling by a three-judge panel in California's long-running prison litigation confirm my sense that this story has so many interesting dimensions. Here are snippets from the very effective article in today's NYTimes:
The California prison system must reduce overcrowding by as many as 55,000 inmates within three years to provide a constitutional level of medical and mental health care, a federal three-judge panel tentatively ruled Monday.... “The evidence is compelling that there is no relief other than a prisoner-release order that will remedy the unconstitutional prison conditions,” the panel said in its tentative ruling.
The California attorney general, Jerry Brown, vowed to appeal the ruling. “This order, the latest intrusion by the federal judiciary into California’s prison system, is a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “The court’s tentative ruling is not constitutionally justified,” he said. “Therefore, the state will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court when the final order is issued.”...
The ruling left the door open for still more negotiations between the thousands of imprisoned plaintiffs and the state in the court proceedings, part of a series of class-action lawsuits accusing the state of failing to provide adequate health care to prisoners. Federal judges have already ruled that the state’s failure to provide medical and mental health care is killing at least one inmate every month and has subjected inmates to cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the Constitution....
The judges have been reluctant to order specific reforms, however, and several times during final arguments they asked lawyers for the state what their plans were to reduce the prison population and whether the court had the authority to impose specific remedies....
The California prison system has doubled its design capacity, and some facilities are even more packed than that. Prison gymnasiums and classrooms are packed with three-tier prisoners’ bunks, and lines for prison health clinics often snake 50 men deep. Rehabilitation programs, recreational facilities and health care facilities are all compromised by the crowds of felons.
Lawyers for the prisoners said that despite California’s exceptionally poor conditions, the ruling could have a national impact on prison reform if other inmate lawsuits seek population caps on other overcrowded facilities. The ruling is also an important success for inmates since the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which made it harder for prisoners to bring lawsuits and limited court remedies for allegations of prison abuse.
As regularly readers know, yesterday's tentative ruling hardly comes out of the blue. California has been beset by extreme sentencing and prison crowding problems for many years, and the federal judges involved in this litigation have given the state lots and lots of opportunities to get its prisons in better order. But a lack of political will and economic problems have prevented even minor reforms from moving forward, and I have reason to believe that truly reform-minded politicians in California may be glad that the federal courts are finally ordering that something drastic be done.
And yet, nothing has been ordered yet. Notably, yesterday's action by the special federal judicial panel was only styled a "tentative ruling." That fact alone is remarkable, since I do not recall reading the section of the Constitution that authorizes federal courts to issue "tentative rulings." (Maybe the Supreme Court should try this its most controversial cases: just imagine how useful it might be to have tentative rulings on abortion rights or affirmative action; maybe Heller should have just been a tentative ruling about the Second Amendment.)
Tentative or not, the decision to suggest a cap on prison population is a very important development and one that should garner lots and lots of attention from all quarters. Indeed, this facet of the ruling likely ensures that the Supreme Court will take up this case if (when?) a final ruling is entered and the state appeals. But I predict (and partially fear) that some sort of highly imperfect settlement will be put together in order to prevent this tentative ruling from ever becoming a final order.
But if the tentative ruling does become an order, the litigation going forward could get real interesting because of the potential national impact of what the panel has ordered. I think other states would likely chime in as amici if this case gets brought to the Justices, and the Justices likely would ask the Solicitor General to weigh in as well. And, of course, every criminal-justice and prisoner-rights group could and should have something significant to say about what's going on in California if SCOTUS is to take up this issue. In short, stay tuned.
Some prior posts providing some background on the litigation timelines:
- "Judges indicate they may order prison population reduced by 58,000" (Feb. 2009)
- "Federal judges to rule on California prison crowding" (Dec. 2008)
- The latest chapter in the California prison overcrowding saga (July 2007)
- California facing forced prison releases (Feb. 2007)
- Schwarzenegger's plan to reform California's prison problems (Dec. 2006)
- "Hasta la vista, prison overcrowding!" (June 2006)
- The challenging politics of reform (Feb. 2006)
The realties of family values in prison nation
Yesterday I received via e-mail this new about a notable new report from the folks atThe Sentencing Project:
A new analysis by The Sentencing Project highlights the growth in the number of incarcerated parents and their children since 1991. Incarcerated Parents and Their Children: Trends, 1991-2007 reviews data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and documents the growing impact of incarceration on children and families.
As of 2007, 1.7 million children had a parent in prison, an 82% increase from the figure of 936,000 in 1991. The racial/ethnic variation among this group is quite broad: 1 in 15 African-American children has a parent in prison, as does 1 in 42 Latino children and 1 in 111 white children.
Due to the distance from home in which many parents are incarcerated — 62% of parents in state prisons are more than 100 miles from home — visits from children are declining over time. In 2004, more than half of parents in state prisons and nearly half in federal prisons had never had a visit from their children.
To address the issues presented by these developments, The Sentencing Project recommends policy responses [of various sorts in this report].
Washington Post urges Prez Obama to do better on clemency
I was pleased to just discover that the Washington Post had this editorial yesterday that echoes my calls for President Obama to make better and more prominent use of his clemency power. The editorial is headlined "A Need for Mercy: President Obama should not replicate his predecessor's sad track record on pardons," and here are excerpts:
Mr. Bush's legacy on pardons will be shaped largely by what he failed to do. Mr. Bush pardoned 189 inmates and commuted the sentences of 11 others -- the stingiest record compiled by any two-term president since World War II.... Perhaps after the term-ending fiascos of the Clinton administration, which gave us the notorious pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, it is not hard to understand why a president might shy away from using the pardon power. Perhaps this explains Mr. Bush's failure to act on a whole host of cases.
President Obama should muster such courage when a failure to act allows the perpetuation of injustices that cannot be remedied elsewhere. Those decisions must be informed by the facts of the case and not governed by the political connections or financial contributions of the applicant. Mercy, as Shakespeare wrote, is the gift twice blessed, but that is true only if it is given freely and only on the merits.
Though President Obama and his team have been busy with other priorities, it remains notable and disappointing that he has now been in office a full three weeks and has not yet used his clemency power. As P.S.Ruckman has effectively documented here, history shows that the majority of presidents were able to find the time to grant a few clemencies within the first few weeks in office.
President Abraham Lincoln, who had to deal with a brewing civil war, granted a clemency before the end of his fourth full week in office. I hope (but do not expect) that President Obama and his team will look to follow in Lincoln's path here and find the time for a few symbolic clemency grants.
Some recent related posts:
- Is it too early to start demanding President Obama use his clemency power?
- Historical evidence that it is NOT too early to start demanding clemencies from President Obama
- Commentary on how celebrity status effects clemency commitments
- When will President Obama start acting like President Lincoln when it comes to the clemency power?
- Inaugural rhetoric about freedom and liberty in prison nation
- Taking stock of President George W. Bush's clemency record
- Are the Border Agents the only federal offenders for whom President Bush feels compassion?
- "Compassionate Conservatism, My Ass"
- A request for a commutation for Weldon Angelos
- What might 2009 have in store for . . . executive clemency?
SCOTUSblog to live-blog the SG confirmation hearings
As detailed in this post, the folks at SCOTUSblog are going to make it easy to keep up today with the confirmation hearings for President Obama's nominee for Solicitor General (and Associate Attorney General):
Note to readers: beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern tomorrow, Tuesday February 10, we will provide live coverage of the executive nominations of Elena Kagan to be Solicitor General of the United States Department of Justice and Thomas J. Perrelli to be Associate Attorney General. In the LiveBlog, for which there is an automated reminder option below, we will relay the relevant questions and responses of the hearings as quickly as possible.
Though I doubt these hearings will include any major discussion of any significant sentencing law and policy issues, all sentencing fans should be aware of the possibility that Kagan as SG could play a role in shaping (and changing for the better?) the federal government's litigation approach to various still-dynamic post-Booker issues and various constitutional issues relating to sentencing.
Some related recent posts:
- HLS Dean Elena Kagan to be nominated for US Solicitor General
- How much can and will the "tenth justice" influence sentencing jurisprudence?
- How a new administration is likely to impact federal sentencing practice
- Why federal sentencing reformers must focus on the USSC and lower courts
- Are we on the verge of a new changed era concerning federal sentencing law and policy?
February 9, 2009
"Judges indicate they may order prison population reduced by 58,000"
The title of this post is the title of this new piece in the Los Angeles Times. Here are the details of the prison crowding story coming out of California, which may quickly become the biggest story in prison nation:
A panel of three federal judges, ruling that overcrowding in state prisons has deprived inmates of their right to adequate healthcare, today indicated they would order the state to reduce the population in those lockups by as many as 58,000 people. The judges issued the tentative ruling after a trial in two long-running cases brought by inmates to protest the state of medical and mental healthcare in the prisons.
Although the order is not final, U.S. District Court Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt effectively told the state that it had lost the case and would have to make dramatic changes in its prisons unless it could reach a settlement with inmates' lawyers.
If the state is ordered to reduce the population, it would likely be able to do so over several years by limiting new admissions and other measures, so that it would not have to release large numbers of prisoners at once. State prisons right now operate at about double their designed capacity, and the judges found that with inmates crammed into institutions, they could not receive the care to which they are entitled.
Gearing up for US Sentencing Commission's regional hearing in Atlanta
I am very pleased to see from this new Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, headlined "Hearings to open on sentencing guidelines," that the coming start of the US Sentencing Commission's regional hearings is already getting some press. Here is how the piece starts:
The U.S. Sentencing Commission meets Tuesday in Atlanta, launching a series of hearings to determine what people think of guidelines that help decide the fate of tens of thousands of convicted felons every year.
The two-day hearings at the Hyatt Regency mark the 25th anniversary of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Its goal was to eliminate unwarranted sentencing disparities with guidelines that give the same punishment to similar defendants who committed similar crimes.
“This is an opportunity to let us see how the system is working,” said commission chairman Ricardo Hinojosa, a federal judge from McAllen, Texas. “We can hear what people like about the guidelines, what they don’t like about them.” One good thing about the sentencing guidelines, Hinojosa said, is transparency.
With all due respect to Judge Hinojosa, though the USSC has been somewhat better lately when it comes to transparency, the federal sentencing system still remains very opaque. For example, does anyone know how many cases involve acquitted-conduct enhancements or how many child-porn downloading defendants have avoided an applicable mandatory minimum sentence through charge bargaining? Does anyone know even how a researcher could possibly obtain this information?
The USSC has been pretty good at providing a little more data and openness in recent years, but transparency is still more of a hope than a reality for most of us eager to really understand what happens in the federal criminal justice system. That all said, these regional hearings should be great, and I hope to have time to blog about them a lot. Right now, the US Sentencing Commission has this agenda posted on its website, and I am hoping that soon it will also have submitted written testimony from these hearings available on-line.
Some related recent posts:
- The revised make-up of the US Sentencing Commission
- US Sentencing Commission's regional hearings to start next week
- Notable news from the US Sentencing Commission
- How a new administration is likely to impact federal sentencing practice
- Why federal sentencing reformers must focus on the USSC and lower courts
- Are we on the verge of a new changed era concerning federal sentencing law and policy?
- What might 2009 have in store for . . . the US Sentencing Commission?
"Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program"
The title of this post is the title of a one-page flyer (which is partially reprinted and linked below) that I received from a helpful reader. The flyer provides a few details concerning a new federal prisoner release program that comes out of last year's passage of the Second Chance Act. Here is part of the text of the flyer:
Beginning February 5, 2009, the Bureau of Prisons is implementing a two-year pilot program called the Elderly Offender Home Detention Pilot Program ("the Program"). The Program is required as part of the Second Chance Act of 2007, Section 231(g), and will involve re-designating certain elderly inmates to home detention for the final portion of their prison sentences....
The Program has many eligibility criteria [including as requirements that you] are 65 years old or older... [and] have served 10 years or more on your current sentence ... [and] have served 75% or more of your current sentence ... [and] have a suitable home in which to reside.
Hoping someone in a town hall might ask Prez Obama about government spending for the drug war in prison nation
This new entry at the White House blog reports that President Obama "is on his way to Elkhart, Indiana, for a town hall about the economic recovery plan. He'll talk for a bit, then take questions from the audience of about 1,700 people."
Though I seriously doubt any crime and justice issues will arise in this event or other such town halls, I am hoping someone in Indiana or elsewhere might have the courage to ask about the costs of the drug war and mass incarceration. Specifically, I want President Obama pressed on whether his team, in its development of an "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan," has given any attention at all to the apparent harms and ineffectiveness of investing so much federal and state taxpayer money in the never-ending war on drugs and in the still-growing US prison population.
Some recent related posts:
- Will we invest in classrooms or cells in these tough times?
- Terrific commentary and assessment of the war on drugs
- The state of cost problems in the states of prison nation
- "America's Forgotten War"
- Will any Prez candidate promise to get us out of a failed war ... on drugs?
"Effort to Track Sex Offenders Draws Resistance"
The title of this post is the title of this important article in today's New York Times. Here are excerpts:
An aggressive federal effort to keep track of sexual offenders is at risk of collapse because of objections from states and legal challenges from sex offenders and others. The effort, approved by Congress three years ago, requires all states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and is meant to prevent offenders from eluding the authorities, especially when they move out of state....
But officials in many states complain about the law’s cost and, in some instances, contend their laws are more effective than the federal one. The states also suggest that the federal requirements violate their right to set their own policies and therefore may be unconstitutional, at least in part.
Despite a looming July deadline, no state has been deemed compliant with the law, and some are leaning toward ignoring major requirements. As a result, one of the toughest child-protection initiatives in the nation’s history is languishing.
“We support the intent, and I’m sure every one of my attorney general colleagues supports the intent,” said Mark J. Bennett, the attorney general of Hawaii. “But we believed we couldn’t follow every single provision because, legally and practically, some of the provisions didn’t make sense.”
Some sex offenders and civil liberties groups have also taken court action to block the law’s provisions. In Ohio, a man convicted 15 years ago of “gross sexual imposition” involving a teenage girl is challenging the requirement that he remain on the state’s registry of sex offenders for the rest of his life, instead of the 10 years previously required by Ohio law....
Members of Congress say they may try to address some of the problems with the law. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said through a spokeswoman that he planned “to determine whether revisions and improvements can strengthen compliance, and then to quickly make whatever changes may be needed.”
While some of the law’s backers acknowledge that the states have legitimate concerns, they remain fundamentally committed to the law, and suggest that the delays leave a patchwork of differing state laws that keep children unnecessarily vulnerable to predators. Even with the spotty compliance and shortcomings, supporters say, the law has reaped benefits. Since its passage, the Marshals Service has brought charges against 615 sex offenders for failing to register or update their registration, an agency spokesman said.
Some related posts:
More (overly?) optimistic predictions of reform
Though I have been disappointed that the new era of hope and change inside the Beltway has not found expression in any serious talk of criminal justice reforms, the editorial pages are now filled with hopes for change. I noted here a recent op-ed saying the "end is in sight" for mass incarceration, and this morning I now see this new New York Times editorial headlined "Rockefeller Laws: An End in Sight." Here are some snippets:
The New York Legislature finally seems poised to overturn the infamous Rockefeller drug laws. The impending change comes too late for the tens of thousands of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who wasted away in prison because of mandatory sentencing policies when they should have been given treatment and leniency. But after years of building support for reform, legislative leaders now have it within their power to make wholesale changes in this profoundly destructive law....
Republican lawmakers who represent prison districts and the correction officers’ unions normally block reform. But Rockefeller reform seems almost certain now that that Democrats control the Legislature and the governor’s mansion. That’s welcome news in the state that has squandered many young lives and started the national trend toward mandatory sentencing.
After years of study and blogging, I think the only thing "almost certain" in legislative reform of sentencing law and policy is that very few reforms are ever "almost certain." (Remember, dear readers, how "certain" many pundits were that Congress would respond to Booker with lots more mandatory minimums.) Though I certainly hope that the Times is right about reforms to the Rockefeller drug laws, the smart money is always on the status quo and inertia in this arena.
Around the legal blogosphere
There is lots of good reading on lots of different subjects worth check out around the blogosphere:
From Concurring Opinions here, "Why the Innocent Are Punished More Harshly Than the Guilty"
From How Appealing here, SJC sees possible bias in rape case; Why charge only the boy? Judges bitterly divided on issue"
From SCOTUSblog here, "Linked Retirements and the Summer of 2009"
From Sex Crimes here, "Council of Europe: Surgical Castration 'Degrading'"
From The Volokh Conspiracy here, "Would a Blog have Stopped Madoff?"
February 8, 2009
Alabama legislators discussing castration and other novel punishments for sex offenders
This local story from Alabama describes a number of novel or near-novel alternative punishment for sex offenders being proposed in the state legislature:
A bill introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives this week would require convicted sex offenders who targeted young children to be surgically castrated before leaving prison. The bill would require castration for male sex offenders older than 21 convicted of a sex crime against a victim younger than 12.
Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, has pushed legislation authorizing castration for two years. “We need a stronger deterrent than what we have now,” said Hurst, who introduced the bill Tuesday. “I’d like for Alabama to take the lead and say that enough is enough.”...
If passed as it is now written, the proposed law would make Alabama the 10th state to authorize castration for sex offenders and the only state that would require surgical castration. The other states call for chemical castration....
In chemical castration, a man is routinely given shots that reduce the amount of testosterone in his body and lower his sex drive. Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin permit the chemical method only. California, Florida, Iowa and Louisiana also use the chemical method, but allow offenders to undergo a voluntary surgical operation.
Alabama would join Texas as the only state that authorizes surgical castration only, in which testicles, which produce most of the body’s testosterone, are surgically removed. Unlike the proposed Alabama law, Texas requires voluntary consent in all cases....
Other proposed bills affecting sex offenders have been introduced in the legislative session. A House bill would add colleges and universities to the areas in which sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet. A proposed Senate bill would prevent sex offenders from living in the county where the offense occurred.
A (too?) hopeful vision of the future for prison nation
The New York Daily News has this notable op-ed, headlined "Bend America's prison bars: The time is ripe for penal reform." It starts with a call for reform and ends on a hopeful note:
America's penal system needs a top-to-bottom overhaul - and a movement of people ready to do something about it is taking shape nicely.
More than 2.1 million people are now behind bars in America — either in federal or state prisons or local jails — a larger proportion of the population than in any other civilized nation and a 500% increase since 1980. Another 5 million are under some kind of supervision, like parole, probation or house arrest, for a grand total of more than 7 million souls....
There is, unfortunately, a callous indifference in many sectors of society to the insanity of it all, the waste and futility and unfairness.
That's the bad news. The good news is there's a growing consensus that the nation has gone too far — and that we must stop putting so much stress on our budgets and our morals.
A blizzard of books, papers, think tanks and forward-looking local officials have been pressing for reform over the last decade.... New York leaders have begun poring over a thick report, published by a special state sentencing commission, that calls for a range of reform.
After years of pressure, judges are getting more leeway to sentence drug-addicted offenders to treatment rather than prison. And cash-strapped state governments are finally listening to reformers who say it's better — and cheaper — to pay for job and recreation programs than for prison cells.
The end is in sight for our nation's long, unhealthy love affair with mass incarceration. And not a moment too soon.
Because of the "callous indifference" rightly noted in this piece, I think modern mass incarceration is likely to get still worse before it starts getting better. But I want to believe, in this era of supposed hope and change and with new concerns about ineffective government spending, that the "end is in sight."