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January 20, 2005

Signs of the (crowded prison) times

Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project and the author of "Race to Incarcerate," has this important op-ed which encourages Congress to use this Booker moment to examine more broadly "the unprecedented harshness of the policies adopted over the past 20 years, which have combined to produce a prison population unimaginable until recently."  Significantly, key republican Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee and AG nominee Alberto Gonzales suggested at recent confirmation hearings, as detailed here, that there may be some hope of moving from being only "tough on crime" to becoming more "smart on crime."

As noted previously here, many states in recent years have taken steps to cut back on harsh mandatory sentences and to expand treatment-centered alternatives to incarceration.  And Republicans Governors, from Alabama to Maryland to Michigan to Texas, have been among the leading proponents of this notable modern shift from penal retribution toward rehabilitation.  And, as detailed in this recent LA Times article, republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just this month announced his plan for California's prisons to "emphasize rehabilitation, marking a shift away from an era when punishment was the overriding mission."

Of course, budget and prison overcrowding realities are a major catalyst for "smart on crime" reforms in the states.  Indeed, newspaper articles today from Alabama to  Vermont to Texas highlight that two decades of toughness may have (at least economically) reached a tipping point in many states.  (As detailed in this post, the blog Grits for Breakfast has done a terrific job covering Texas prison overcrowding issues.)  And, because tight budgets do not seem to impact federal criminal justice policy-making, I am not sure we should be too optimistic that Congress will follow the lead of the states in any post-Booker reforms.

January 20, 2005 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 24, 2005 4:37:22 AM


am just a mother who needs help to free her son

Posted by: bernadette guzman | Jun 24, 2011 8:38:49 PM

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