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February 10, 2011

"The Smart On Crime Coalition" produces mega-report urging criminal justice reforms

Logo Via numerous e-mails, I have learned that The Smart on Crime Coalition, which describes itself as "a diverse coalition of the nation’s leading criminal justice reform organizations" has today released Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Administration and Congress.  The group describes this new report as "among the most comprehensive reports ever published to address the problems confronting America’s criminal justice system." Here is more about the report from some of the e-mails I received:

In its review of virtually every major criminal justice issue — from overcriminalization to forensic science — from juvenile justice to the death penalty — and from indigent defense to executive clemency — the report serves as both a source of information and a spur to action for the Administration and Congress....

Virginia Sloan, President of The Constitution Project, said about Smart on Crime, “The criminal justice system is supposed to be about justice — for victims, for those rightly and wrongly accused and convicted of crimes, and for all of us.  But a system that costs too much and makes so many mistakes provides justice for no one.  Smart on Crime contains an ever-increasing and bipartisan consensus on how to fix the problems that have for too long plagued the system.”

In addition to its recommendation that a National Criminal Justice Commission be formed, the report — developed and published by the Smart on Crime Coalition, a group of more than 40 bipartisan organizations and individuals — offers nearly 100 detailed policy recommendations across 16 criminal justice areas.  While contributors do not necessarily have positions on each issue addressed, there was universal agreement that the current system — with its rampant cost, inefficiency, and injustices — is in urgent need of reform.

Because the full report runs nearly 300 pages and has so many policy recommendations covering so many areas, I fear that the report may be a little too much of a good thing.   I suspect that everyone will be able to find stuff they like a lot in this report; I also suspect that everyone will be able to find stuff that they do not like much at all.

Interestingly, a brief review of the recommendations on the federal sentencing system dodges some of the biggest cutting-edge issues concerning the modern federal sentencing system.  For example, through drug sentence gets lots of attention, the recent exponential growth of child porn and immigration caseloads, as well as concerns about increasing disparities in the wake of Booker, do not get any mention.  Similarly, the death penalty sectionis focused on (dated?) recommendations for federal habeas corpus reform and for greater funding for capital counsel without any apparent attention given to the costly reality of such reforms or to now-pervasive new problems with lethal injection protocols.

I do not mean or want to give this mega-report too much fly-speck criticism.  The group who put together the report, the report itself, and the website supporting the reportare all very impressive and make an important contributions to on-going discussions of criminal justice reform.  But because a lot of the substantive suggestions in the report appear familiar, and because many of the report's good ideas have gotten so little political traction in the recent past, I am not yet optimistic that this report will significantly move the needle in many of the areas it seeks to impact.  Justified(?) pessimism notwithstanding, I do sincerely hope that a significant number of the "nearly 100 detailed policy recommendations across 16 criminal justice areas" become a reality.

February 10, 2011 at 02:23 PM | Permalink


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Is this one of those déjà vu all over again things? Or, is it just a "been there done that" thing that no one listened to the first time around?

On November 5, 2008 the "2009 Criminal Justice Transition coalition" released a 263 page document called "Smart On Crime: Recommendations For The Next Administration And Congress. Did anyone listen then? Don't think so.

Senator Jim Webb made headlines introducing a bill to form a commission to do a "study" and "make recommendations" to "overhaul" the badly broken criminal justice system. Today I see where he plans to re-introduce the legislation before stepping down.

Seems like a lot of time, effort and good old tax dollars could be saved by starting with the studies that have already been done to death. But again, is anyone really paying attention or is it just politics as usual?

Posted by: Thomas | Feb 10, 2011 4:46:13 PM

I talked to my congressman about CJ system reform and all he is aware of would be in the nature of patches to well known problems and there is little interest in that. In other words congress is not paying attention.

Posted by: John Neff | Feb 11, 2011 10:36:42 AM

The members of this study are all self-dealing, criminal dependent rent seekers, mostly Democrats, e.g. the ACLU. The ACLU is the research department for lawyer rent seeking, generating new concepts in the legal promotional of evil, from which lawyers will make fees, based on false ideas.

No victims are represented. This is left wing propaganda, which should be dismissed without reading. They have zero tolerance for victim interest or for the eradication of crime. We should have zero tolerance for this lawyer, self-dealing garbage. It is misleading, biased, and in bad faith, serving the rent seeking aims of the lawyer profession. Without reading it, I will say, they want more funding for social programs and for defendant interests. They are opposed to the death penalty as wasteful of resources. Irresponsible and unfair to have no representation of crime victim interest.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 11, 2011 11:36:41 AM

"Smart on Crime"? Orwell would be proud.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 12, 2011 3:55:06 PM

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