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July 24, 2014

Rep. Ryan's new anti-poverty proposal calls for federal sentencing and prison reforms

Paul-ryanAs reported in this official press release, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan today "released a new discussion draft, 'Expanding Opportunity in America,' [which] proposes a new pilot project to strengthen the safety net and discusses a number of reforms to the EITC, education, criminal justice, and regressive regulation."  Notably, an extended section of this impressive document (Chapter 4, which runs nearly 10 of the draft's 70+ pages) is focused on criminal justice reforms.  Here are segments from this portion of the draft:

About 2.2 million people are currently behind bars — a more than 340 percent increase since 1980.  As a result, we spend about $80 billion on corrections at all levels of government — an inflation-adjusted increase of over 350 percent in that same period.  This growing cost burden on society is a cause for concern.  But perhaps what’s most troubling is the effect on individuals and families....

[Federal sentencing reform] seeks to tap this overlooked potential and ameliorate the collateral impact on children and families.  Although most offenders are in state prisons or local jails, successful reforms at the federal level could encourage states and local governments to follow their example.  This discussion draft explores a number of reforms on multiple fronts — how we sentence individuals to prison, how offenders are treated inside prison, and how society helps them to reintegrate afterwards.

Public safety is priority No. 1, so these reforms would apply to only non-violent and low-risk offenders.  The punishment should fit the crime, but in many cases the punishment of incarceration extends beyond prison time.  Once people have paid their debt to society, they should be able to move on. In that spirit, this proposal suggests three possible reforms:

• Grant judges more flexibility within mandatory-minimum guidelines when sentencing non-violent drug offenders.

• Implement a risk- and needs-assessment system in federal prisons while expanding enrollment in rehabilitative programming to reduce recidivism. Allow non-violent and low-risk inmates to use enrollment to earn time off their prison stay towards prerelease custody.

• Partner with reforms at the state and local level....

Unlike state inmates, only 6 percent of federal inmates are violent offenders, while another 15 percent are guilty of weapons offenses.  In fact, most federal prisoners—nearly 51 percent — are serving time for a drug-related offense, and data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that most of these federal drug offenders are in the lowest criminal-history category.   But under current law, a single gram of crack cocaine could be all that separates a convict from a less-than-five-year sentence and a 40-year sentence. Rigid and excessive mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders, like these, may add to an already over-crowded prison system without appreciably enhancing public safety.

There are also economic and social consequences to unreasonably long sentences. Not only do they put undue burdens on families, but they may actually make people more likely to return to crime.  As Justice Fellowship notes, “Rather than encouraging criminals to become peaceful, productive citizens, prison culture often has the opposite effect, operating as a graduate school for crime.”  The federal government should follow the lead of several states and consider how sentencing guidelines, including alternative forms of detention, can both prevent crime and steer non-violent, low-risk drug offenders away from the addictions and networks that make them more likely to reoffend....

Although crime rates have fallen since the 1980s, the unintended consequence of these mandatory minimums is that some low-risk, non-violent offenders serve unreasonably long sentences....

A major challenge of criminal-justice reform is lowering the high rates of recidivism. High rates of recidivism are not only costly to the taxpayer and dangerous for society; they present a missed opportunity to bring more individuals into society as productive and contributing members....

[Proposed] reforms seek to put a greater focus upon rehabilitation and reintegration. Although the federal government’s reach is limited, these reforms would give judges the discretion they need to prevent nonviolent offenders from serving unreasonably long sentences; they would align inmates’ incentives to help reduce recidivism; and they would partner with states and community groups to expand their life-affirming work.

July 24, 2014 at 05:31 PM | Permalink


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A mother ,a nurse my daughter was sentenced to an overcrauded federal institution in Dublin for nill possesion of meth .The place houses 3 women to each cell make for one she is serving 8 months .she will have been better at home or in a rehave place

Posted by: ana | Jul 25, 2014 12:12:53 AM

The decisions about rehab should be made on real facts, not fictitious adjudicated charges. Try poaching on the territory of a drug dealer, see how non-violent he can get.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 25, 2014 7:45:23 AM

"territory of a drug dealer"...you mean those pathetic, frame houses in rural areas? "Drug kingpins" are words of federal prosecutors seeking to make names for themselves by putting these rather pathetic folks into prison for extensive sentences. Rehab, direction, and schooling.

Those folks who have medicine cabinets overflowing with non-prescribed meds they hustle from doctor shopping are no better.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Jul 25, 2014 9:26:09 AM

Here is a modest suggestion to Paul Ryan of Washington, DC. Review and revise the laws enacted by the vile feminist lawyer and their male running dogs that attack the patriarchal family, including all child abuse laws, squarely aimed at the removal of black children from ordinary black families, ending all their future prospects. Stop your own promotion of bastardy. That would end both crime and poverty.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 25, 2014 9:00:03 PM


You are pretty correct from what goes on in our area. Drug king pins look more like somebody that got kicked off welfare 6 months ago and is going down hill fast.

The prosecuters and particularily the chief judge in our district, hammer these guys just terrible. They qualify for mandatorys and enhancements by the flimsiest of evidence.

But get no departures that are relatively obvious. I think it actually pumps them up.

They donot over look an opportunity. Till this stops, its gonna be tough sledding for these
Poor devils. No doubt they need to go away. But should we warehouse them with an expiration date the same ad can of beans.

Posted by: MidwetsGuy | Jul 25, 2014 9:40:25 PM

I dont know if any of you readers here have ever seen the movie Blazing Saddles. The scene in there where they are discussing letting Freedmen move into town and also help fend off the outlaws and the Mayor or whomever says yeah they can come in But NOT The IRISH! This Ryan guy would evoke a similar response.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 28, 2014 2:58:09 PM

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