July 23, 2012
Notable crime and sentencing reform talk in latest speech from AAG Lanny Breuer
A few helpful readers made sure I did not miss this prepared speech delivered today by US Asistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer Speaks to the National District Attorneys Association Summer Conference. Here are just some of the scrime-and-punishment highlights from a speech that should be read in full.:
This morning, I submitted, along with a colleague, the Criminal Division’s annual report to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In that report, we argue that recent reductions in public safety spending mean that the remarkable public safety achievements of the last 20 years are threatened unless reforms are instituted to make our public safety expenditures smarter and more productive. In short, we are at a crossroads....
According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, state and local criminal justice spending rose from approximately $32.6 billion in 1982 to $186.2 billion in 2006. Federal criminal justice spending increased even more dramatically, from approximately $4.2 billion in 1982 to $41 billion in 2006.
The net result of these reforms and investments has been a steep decline in violent crime across the country -- essentially the opposite of what occurred in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 10 million Americans were victims of violent crime in 1991, whereas less than half that many -- approximately 3.8 million -- were victims of violent crime in 2010.... The steep decline in violent crime over the past 20 years is a law enforcement success story worth dwelling on and worth celebrating.
The fiscal climate of the past several years, however, has led to significant cuts in state and local government spending, including on criminal justice initiatives. At the Justice Department, our budget has remained essentially flat.... At the same time that federal criminal justice spending has stayed roughly flat, the number of federal prisoners has increased, and our prison and detention spending has increased along with it. This has resulted in prison and detention spending crowding out other criminal justice investments, including aid to state and local law enforcement and spending on prevention and intervention programs....
Our collective challenge, in my view, is to figure out how to control prison spending without compromising public safety, so that we can afford to fund other measures that are proven to lower crime rates, including prevention and intervention programs, and initiatives designed to assist prisoners reentering society with finding employment after they get out. Indeed, I believe that our ability to increase the productivity of public safety spending of all kinds will largely determine whether we build on the reductions in crime that we’ve experienced since the early 1990s, or whether we see setbacks.
<P>There are no easy answers. Particularly in a time of declining public safety budgets, striking the right balance between prison and detention spending and other criminal justice spending requires thoughtful solutions.
The Justice Department recently put forward two legislative proposals that aim to maximize public safety while also controlling prison costs.
The first of these, the Federal Prisoner Recidivism Reduction Programming Enhancement Act, would allow prisoners who successfully participate in programs that have been demonstrated to reduce recidivism to earn an incentive of up to 60 days per year of credit toward completion of their sentence....
In addition, we have put forward the Federal Prisoner Good Conduct Time Act, which would increase the amount of time a federal prison inmate could earn off his or her sentence, for good behavior, by approximately seven days per year -- from roughly 47 days to 54 days....
These are just two proposals. But, as we told the Sentencing Commission this morning, federal sentencing policy should be reviewed systematically and on a crime-by-crime basis through the lens of public safety productivity. Looked at through such a lens, it is clear that there are many areas of sentencing policy that can and should be improved.
July 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM | Permalink
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To read the first three paragraphs of Mr. Breuer's speech, one might think that he has been cribbing from my entries here and on Crime and Consequences. If so, he's welcome to continue -- until President Romney appoints me to replace him.
That last part IS A JOKE, folks. Don't worry, the government can't afford me anymore.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 23, 2012 7:33:21 PM
Is he freaking kidding? The BOP already HAS the authority to give 54 days per year in good conduct time!! It just chooses not to, and his boss the AG chooses not to issue the order. Shame on that statement.
It would be nice to see some actual chances to earn freedom, and I do hope Main Justice bosses finally support such changes. But given the relative dearth of programming in the BOP now, I suspect (1) that those programs would be as underfunded and with as long a wait list as all other useful programming; and (2) it would take time for crowd-reducing programs to show any effect.
Posted by: Jay Hurst | Jul 23, 2012 8:00:42 PM
"According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, state and local criminal justice spending rose from approximately $32.6 billion in 1982 to $186.2 billion in 2006. Federal criminal justice spending increased even more dramatically, from approximately $4.2 billion in 1982 to $41 billion in 2006.
The net result of these reforms and investments has been a steep decline in violent crime across the country -- essentially the opposite of what occurred in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s."
And yet, drug use continues pretty much unabated. What if we shifted funds from a pointless war on drugs to fighting real crime? We might actually save some money.
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