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August 2, 2015

Rep. Sensenbrenner explains why "Now is the time for criminal justice reform"

The Washington Examiner has published this notable new commatary authored by US Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner under the headline "Now is the time for criminal justice reform."  Here are excerpts:

Over the past three decades, America's federal prison population has more than quadrupled — from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today.  Prison spending has increased alongside it, placing a heavy burden on American taxpayers.  According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, between 1980-2013, prison spending has increased by 595 percent, a staggering figure that is both irresponsible and unsustainable.  Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25 percent of the entire Department of Justice budget.

This redirects funding from enforcement and other criminal justice programs and reduces our system's efficiency and effectiveness.  The growth in prison population and spending, plus the massive human and social costs of mass incarceration, creates an urgent need for federal criminal justice reform.

The current high incarceration rates are a result of sweeping tough-on-crime initiatives, specifically the introduction of drug mandatory minimums in the 1980s.  While minimums have proved successful in some circumstances, too often low-level, non-violent individuals have been caught up in the system.  Instead of considering the unique circumstances of each case, taking into account the personal and criminal history of the offender, judges are forced to comply with federally mandated minimums that lock up millions of people without discretionary judgment.

Further, the current system lacks the ability to effectively rehabilitate nonviolent offenders, leaving them without the skills, education and training to successfully reintegrate into society.  A shocking 50 percent of the federal prison population has substance abuse issues, mental health issues or both.  An estimated 53 percent of offenders entering prison are at or below the poverty line, and our current prison population houses a disproportionate number of African-Americans, who account for nearly 40 percent of inmates.

Our prisons have become warehouses that simply lock away offenders, rather than treating the underlying issues that brought them there.  This neglect contributes to high recidivism rates and puts a revolving door on the gates of America's federal prisons.

While Congress has remained largely silent on the issue, states have embraced reform — enacting wide-ranging, evidence-based changes that both improve public safety and rein in prison costs. These state programs have succeeded by prioritizing incarceration for violent and career criminals, strengthening community supervision and adopting alternative sanctions for lower-level offenders....

Last year, Congressman Bobby Scott and I led a congressional task force to investigate over-criminalization, which examined the scope of mass incarceration, as well as evidence-based programs for reform.  In June, we introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, a comprehensive bill that addresses the major drivers of the federal prison population at the front and back ends of the system.

SAFE Justice promotes targeted sentencing over a one-size-fits-all approach, curtails the ballooning number of regulatory crimes, and includes policies that more effectively change the criminal behavior of the nearly 132,000 people on federal probation and post-prison supervision.  The bill, which has been endorsed by House Speaker John Boehner and boasts 36 bipartisan cosponsors, advances research-based sentencing, release and supervision policies, and will enact meaningful reforms that shadow the success seen on the state level.

Our system cannot continue on its current trajectory.  It's not only fiscally unsustainable, but morally irresponsible.  Now is the time for criminal justice reform, and the SAFE Justice Act delivers the change necessary to enact fairness in sentencing, reduce the taxpayer burden and ensure the increased safety and prosperity of communities across the country.

Prior related posts:

August 2, 2015 at 06:42 PM | Permalink


So much lawyer quackery in one passage.

Let's just address one point, because it is exhausting and hopeless to provide a truth squad for lawyer propaganda.

You have earned a PhD in prison, a law degree and a medical degree. You can do honest work at a high salary, working 80 hours a week, beset by confiscatory taxation and crushing regulation. Or you may return to your life of crime, tax exempt, respected and feared by the public, protected by the criminal law with only a 10% chance of prosecution, all the good looking hussies you can desire, and a salary 10 times higher, doing maybe 8 hours of work a week. It was clearly explained in the movie Goodfellas.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 2, 2015 11:56:52 PM

Well, Mr. Claus, there's nothing stopping you from robbing a bank so you can get some of those good looking hussies!

For maximum effect you could even stand on a street corner with a penitential sign.

Posted by: Boffin | Aug 3, 2015 4:49:26 PM

Bank robbers are junkie losers. A 17 year old I met had a good year stealing cars on consignment. You need the front clip from a 2011 E-class Mercedes, he will deliver the whole car for $3000. Where do you easily find a 2011 E-Class? At the airport, and most owners will not even report the theft for an entire week.

Do that 3 times a day, and you will have his kind of year, making $2 million.

Who is stupider, the lawyer with a 200 IQ, or this poor sap?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 3, 2015 5:46:47 PM

This criminal 17-year-old of your example is clever, hard-working, and ambitious. He'll eventually wind up in banking, politics, or yes, law. Society is probably better off with him stealing cars.

Posted by: Boffin | Aug 3, 2015 9:35:37 PM

Boffin. Laugh of the Day. He would be doing less damage in car theft, less job killing. Indeed, he would generate jobs in insurance, appraisal, car making, car selling, car servicing, taxiing to get home from the airport, and the phone industry as the owner calls a dozen people, policing, paper work. Great Jumping Jehoshaphat. What a humanitarian. I should have shown him greater deference, gratitude, and given him more respect, when I saw him in stir. He had mistakenly stolen a car in a rural area, where, yes, they will try to get it back, and they do have room in prison.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 3, 2015 11:41:53 PM

Should SC's model prisoner be subject to extreme wage garnishment, also prisoners don't have access to education like SC thinks they do with grants being cut.

Rep JS is a hypocrite, he modeled the patriot act,and immigrant felony bills, and adam walsh act bills, the reason he wants reform is because of partisan politics and government spending, not the merits of CJ reform, it would be cheaper just to shoot everyone or deny them medical care which happens.

Posted by: alex | Aug 4, 2015 12:57:50 AM

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