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December 16, 2010

New ACS issue brief urges " diverting and reclassifying misdemeanors" to save big bucks

As detailed in this ACS blog post, there is a new paper from the American Constitution Society's series on the indigent defense system.  This new "issue brief" is authored by Robert Boruchowitz and it is titled "Diverting and Reclassifying Misdemeanors Could Save $1 Billion per Year: Reducing the Need For and Cost of Appointed Counsel."  Here are excerpts from the paper's introduction:

There are approximately ten million misdemeanor cases filed each year in state and municipal courts in the United States. In some courts, the combination of driving with a suspended license, possession of marijuana, and minor in possession of alcohol cases can total between 40% and 50% of the caseload. Many of those courts are overwhelmed with cases and the defenders in those courts, if they are present at all, are often overwhelmed and unprepared. The financial impact on both the defendants and the local governments is significant....

Right now, taxpayers expend on average $80 per inmate per day to lock up people accused of things like turnstile jumping, fish and game violations, minor in possession of alcohol, dog leash violations, driving with a suspended license, and feeding the homeless.

By diverting or reclassifying these offenses as non-criminal violations, local and state governments could save hundreds of millions, perhaps more than $1 billion per year....

This Issue Brief will discuss successful diversion programs from Washington State to Florida that have saved money by removing misdemeanor cases from the court system and have helped people to get their licenses back and to avoid the direct and collateral consequences of criminal convictions. It will review reclassification changes such as the Massachusetts law making possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation and not a crime. It also will address how the U.S. Department of Justice could support education of criminal justice practitioners about the benefits of diversion and reclassification efforts.

December 16, 2010 at 06:20 PM | Permalink


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Please find me a person currently in custody for "feeding the homeless." I'll be waiting right here.

Posted by: josh | Dec 18, 2010 12:34:35 PM

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