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May 3, 2011

New letter to Congress urges cost-saving federal criminal justice reforms

I received via e-mail this notice from The Sentencing Project about a notable letter sent to leading members on Congress about criminal justice reform:

The Sentencing Project and a group of national and state organizations sent a letter to Capitol Hill yesterday urging lawmakers to enact a comprehensive plan to reduce the federal prison population. A number of states have already reduced corrections populations with no threat to public safety and the federal prison system should do the same.

The Sentencing Project’s 2010 report, Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States, found that Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York had all experienced significant declines, ranging from 5% to 20%, in their prison populations. The state reductions came about by limiting mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, diverting defendants with low-level convictions from incarceration, enhancing release programs and reducing parole revocations.

The federal prison system needs to make the same progress.  Its system has increased at more than double the rate of state prisons since 2000, contributing to an overcrowded system that is dangerous for staff and prisoners.   Since 1980, there has been a 700% increase in the prison population and a 1712% increase in expenditures.

The full letter, which is available at this link, makes for an interesting read.

May 3, 2011 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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Great letter. Fantastic proposals.

In my view, at the top of the list should be an increase of good-time credits in federal prisons to 120 days per year, putting the federal system on a somewhat more equal footing with the states on this issue. (Many states grant good-time credits of 180 days per year.) Who wouldn't want to encourage good behavior? Meanwhile, it's a great across-the-board remedy to ease a bit of the massive accumulation of sentencing inflation that has built up in the system. It would also save a recurring $2 billion per year.

Posted by: James | May 4, 2011 1:44:17 PM

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