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June 21, 2014

Two more prominent conservative prosecutors call for less incarceration

Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia AG, and Deborah Daniels, a former DOJ official in the Bush Administration, have this notable new opinion piece in the Washington Post headlined "Less incarceration could lead to less crime." In part because this piece reflects a lot of my own views on the modern need for modern reforms, I will quote it at length:

When crime rates began rising in the 1960s and too many Americans felt unsafe walking in their neighborhoods, the idea of putting more people in prison — and keeping them there longer — made sense.

For the next three decades, our nation did just that, as public unease propelled lawmakers to promote longer sentences, curbs on parole and other measures making our correctional system ever tougher.

Now more than 2 million American adults are behind bars and nearly one of every 33 is under some form of correctional control — either incarcerated or supervised in the community. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the rate was one in 77.

As conservatives with backgrounds in law enforcement, we embraced the orthodoxy that more incarceration invariably meant less crime, no matter the offense or the danger posed by its perpetrator. But crime rates have been falling since the early 1990s, and a growing body of research combined with the compelling results of reforms in many states prove it is time to adjust our approach.

In short, we must reserve our harshest and most expensive sanction — prison — for violent and career criminals while strengthening cost-effective alternatives for lower-level, nonviolent offenders. The latter lawbreakers must be held accountable for their crimes, but they pose less risk and hold greater potential for redemption.

With today’s sophisticated assessment tools, we can better sort offenders and match them with the levels of treatment and community supervision that offer the best chance for them to stay crime free. Specialty courts that use swift and certain sanctions to promote compliance with drug tests and other conditions of probation are another key plank in this approach.

Let us be clear: Society’s treatment of dangerous, violent felons should remain as punitive as ever. Communities need protection from such predatory criminals, and incapacitation — for a long time, no matter the cost — remains the proper response. Widespread incarceration has played a role in making our streets safer. Estimates vary, but many social scientists believe that expanding imprisonment can be credited for up to a third of the crime reduction of recent years, with demographics, advances in policing and a hotly debated mix of other dynamics accounting for the rest.

However, when it comes to the public safety benefits of incarceration, at least for some offenders, it is clear that we are well past the point of diminishing returns. And given that recidivism levels remained disappointingly high as incarceration rates rose, we would be foolish to ignore the need for a course correction.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently reported that states that have cut their imprisonment rates (coupled with other reforms) have experienced a greater crime drop than those that increased incarceration. Between 2007 and 2012, the 10 states with the largest decreases in imprisonment rates had a 12 percent average reduction in crime, while the 10 states with the largest imprisonment rate increases saw crime fall 10 percent....

When you see, as we have, what reduces criminal behavior, it’s easier to accept the notion that for many offenders, prison is not the best answer. That conclusion is part of what led us to join Right on Crime, a national movement of conservatives who support a criminal justice system reflecting fiscal discipline, a belief in redemption, the empowerment of victims and reliance on solid evidence to determine the most cost-effective use of taxpayer funds to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.

Much of the talk about such reforms highlights their fiscal payoff, and we’re all for saving taxpayer dollars. But as conservatives, we also applaud such efforts because they reflect an evidence-driven approach that values results, not imprisonment for imprisonment’s sake.

Let’s resist our old incarceration reflex and support a rational system anchored in the knowledge, experience and values of today. Let’s preserve families, restore victims, help willing offenders turn their lives around and keep the public safe.

Some older and recent posts on the "new politics" of sentencing reform:

June 21, 2014 at 08:17 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Convicted Sex Offender who was incarcerated from 1/9/2001-6-4-2012.
You are really close with your thoughts. I am a living and breathing oxymoron. While going through a very stressful divorce with adultery and alcohol I touched my step daughter. I never denied it as far as not taking a deal. Never would I have went through a trial bringing more harm. At the age of 32 and never being in jail before I was afforded an opportunity to qualify for an alternative from total confinement. I was on bail for a year and ran my successful business and paid $1200 per month in child support along the way. I qualified and was accepted into a strict 36-month treatment program and the prosecutor agreed as well. My adulteress of an ex-wife took to the grand stage as acting victim of a minor and after 45 minutes of rambling and unsubstantiated claims the judge sent me to prison. 2-3 years in I had went through the stages and became 100% culpable for all of my choices in 32 years on this planet. The bulk of my sentence was walked off as punitive, working a low waged menial job bringing state funding by head count and creating state jobs. As my sentence ended I was denied a bed at the treatment prison because I was low risk and there are more prisoners than treatment could handle. Once released my Parole officer seemed confused and sent me to be evaluated for amenability to outside treatment, you know, what I asked for in 2001. The Doctor said I had already accomplished what he thought I needed to and he signed his reputation on me, a lowly S.O., I have been out over two years and am a model parolee just like I was an inmate. The losers are, My kids(loss of financial support $1200 per month), the taxpayer spending $35k per year to warehouse me, and the IRS because I was making $100k per year and lost almost $1.2 million in earnings give or take. Had I been afforded the alternative my success rate was clearly very high and I would have been able to bring my 2 kids at least financial stability while living 2000 miles from them geographically therefore insuring that I was far from a continued threat.I am listed level 1 in the state of Washington and I am not even on the internet or National Registry. Now I am imprisoned in the borders of the state since if I travel and sleep one night in another state I am required to register in that state and the AWA of 2006 would force my info to be sent to the DOJ and I would be a Tier III by Federal guidelines and put on the National Registry. Failure to do so would find me charged with a Class C Felony in most states and re-incarcerated for up to 10 more years! As a registered citizen, though the USC does not admit it I am being punished for life with no chance of full redemption. Watch what some choose when saddled with that plight. Lets just say I predict a lot of guys running to third world countries and taxpayers paying for return flights. Law enforcement only need low risk offender info as well, as proven in risk assessment states like Washington. The AWA needs repealing. Anyway, I would estimate that 30% of all prisoners I met would be productive if released today. Good Luck

Posted by: Reece Crawford | Jun 21, 2014 10:19:30 AM

Sorry to hear that, you should of use spacing between sentences.

That is the problem of taking plea deals, your situation is not unique, travis iouse who was mention on lisa ling's show as a 17 year old faced prison for touching allegedly a 10 year old even though he was mentally ill and that there were questions as to whether he actually did it.
However in prison he was considered a child molester and beaten up and has to wear eye protections and is tracking by the texas sex registry.

Ironically if you violently beat up your step daughter you may have not had to register with the government. The adam walsh act is a "Sex" registry, so arsonists, gang members, MS-13, drug traffickers, folks who shoot folks daily,etc will not have to register, even terrorists and those who support them. Remember the nitzmary brown case, those folks are not a threat to the children so they don't have to register for the government.

The criminal justice system is broken, trouble is reform to an extent if based on the "costs of incarceration" and not the merits, although some libertarians and others do heed the call.

Posted by: Alex | Jun 22, 2014 1:34:02 AM

Prosecutors owe their jobs and their future earinings as defense attorneys to the criminal. They protect the criminal from eradication by the sae and from public self help, the only way to stop crime.

This conflict of interest takes away all the credibility of these lawyer. Ignore them.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 22, 2014 10:32:15 AM

I would claim that mandatory minimums and incarceration are a distant second to the injustices of our "Justus" System compared to Sex offender laws. They are currently irrational, unjustified POS's created to satisfy a perverse obsession wrt feminist's narrow views of the so-called "War on Women". They have no basis in any reality, and are definitely non-proportional to the actual harm and potential threats of the majority of those considered offenders.

Note that this does no apply to anyone who actually used force, threats, coercion, incapacitation or deception to any person 14 years or older or any contact with those 12 and under.

Posted by: albeed | Jun 22, 2014 4:51:36 PM

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