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February 23, 2013

Should anyone eager to see federal criminal justice reform be rooting FOR the sequester?

The question in the title of this post in prompted by these two recent commentaries by Walter Pavlo, who writes about white-collar crime over at Forbes' website:

The first post above links to this intriguing letter from AG Eric Holder which details the significant "downsizing" that would be required within the Justice Department if the sequester's automating budget cuts kick in.  The second post concludes with these notable points about how we might sensibly cut some federal costs at limited risk to public saefty:

In a time when we want people off of government assistance, the federal justice system is feeding more people into prison …. and believe me, prison IS government assistance (food, shelter, healthcare, supervision and monthly stipend (yes, inmates are paid)). Are we less safe with guys like Raj Rajaratnam (insider trading) doing only 6 years in prison rather than the 11 years he received? Raj’s long sentence sure did not deter someone from trading on Heinz shares prior to the announcement it was going private at a stock premium. Would a Raj sentence of 6 years uphold respect for the law?  I think it would.  Do you think Raj, whether he spent 6 years in prison or 11 years, would be any more likely to commit a another crime?  I’m thinking Raj is done with trading and doubt he placed any of those suspicious trades on Heinz.  Look, the primary difference between an inmate doing 11 years and another one doing 2 has to do with the number of people he/she testified against and not their threat to society.

There is no doubt that long prison sentences make the general public feel good over the short term, but the costs of incarceration go on for the long term.  I realize that images of white-collar felons and low-level drug dealers working side by side breaking rocks conjures up feelings of justice.  However, we now live in a time when there are video cameras at stop-light intersections, drones that patrol war zones, my iPhone can even find itself, so there has to be a better way to monitor felons (inmates) without having them housed on sprawling government complexes and on the government payroll.  Ankle bracelet?  GPS? Community service projects?   Punishment/Sentences can still be vetted out in years but does an entire prison term need to be served on a government, tax payer subsidized, compound?

Sequester this!!!

UPDATE:  On this topic, I see Ted Gest at The Crime Report has this notable recent entry headlined "Justice Groups to White House: Cuts Could Have 'Enormous Impact.'"

February 23, 2013 at 05:37 PM | Permalink


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I agree that a prison term need not be served inside the government compounds...Federal sentences are just the absolute worst...I would think if one served 50% of a federal sentence in prison, (half could serve as his supervised release with the other half on a technical guadian, ankle bracelet, half way house), (partial house arrest, with work release)...There are a ton of options and its not rocket science...these items could be stepped down as the offender makes his way thru the program...HE would be rehabing oneself and paying taxes, instead of costing tax payer dollars...

But the DOJ will never consent to such a setup. Its admission that there bloated system
failed and makes congress look like the total incompetents that they are..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 26, 2013 10:54:17 AM

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