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June 26, 2023

Notable new PPI report on "Contending with Carveouts: How and Why to Resist Charge-Based Exclusions in Reforms"

The folks at Prison Policy Initiative have this intriguing new advocacy document titled "Contending with Carveouts: How and Why to Resist Charge-Based Exclusions in Reforms." Here is how the document gets started:

Criminal legal system reforms are being introduced at a rapid pace across the United States, often with the stated goal of reducing our extreme prison and jail populations.  Too often, however, these reforms are handicapped because they exclude large categories of people impacted by the criminal legal system.  These “carveouts” generally exclude people charged with or convicted of violent, sex-related, or other serious charges.  This is sometimes referred to as focusing on the “non, non, nons” — nonviolent, non-sexual, and non-serious charges.  “Serious” charges often include drug crimes that involve specific controlled substances, like fentanyl or methamphetamines.  Too often, policymakers believe that these carveouts are politically necessary in order to pass legislation, or believe that they are actually good policy.

Some criminal legal system reformers make the mistake of assuming that carveouts are an unavoidable or necessary part of all criminal legal reform.  But the reality is that criminal legal system reform will never achieve its goals if we continue to focus only on non-violent, non-sexual, and non-serious charges.  Carveouts dramatically lessen the impact of criminal legal system reforms, and create a more difficult political landscape for later reform.

Carveouts are common, but not inevitable.  Below, the Prison Policy Initiative has gathered a set of resources for advocates and policymakers to understand the problems posed by carveouts and equip them with arguments to make sure that criminal legal reform can be for everyone, not just for a small subset of impacted people.

June 26, 2023 at 08:32 PM | Permalink


It's heartening to see the old bait-and-switch so honestly revealed. The loss leader was the non-violent, etc., group that gets pushed out in front. But that was never the whole aim, as this helpfully shows. What the "reformers" have in mind is loosing upon us all the strongarms, hoodlums, mob enforcers and child rapists they can find, which is going to be plenty.

Their plan is appalling but I'll give them credit for, finally, telling us what it really is.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 26, 2023 9:38:21 PM

What is appalling is this incessant and unending need to deprive relief from ALL offenders, all the time, and irrespective of the lack of violence in their crime.

As prime example, there are some sex offenses that are clearly non-violent (e.g., possession/receipt of child porn in which contact with a minor was NOT attempted nor occurred, and in which there is no history of prior 'contact' sex offenses). But because the crime is 'sexually based', these offenders are prejudically excluded from any benefit or relief made available to other non-violent/ non-sex offenders. These are not the "child rapists" that Mr. Otis has screamed about (and as any and all sex offenders are falsely believed to be). This is neither "rare occurrences" nor outliers. There are approximately a million people who now fall into this category (non-violent sex offender, no longer in custody) and whose 2d Amend. rights are forfeited for the remainder of their lives. Appalling.

Of concern,these folks are particularly vulnerable to threats, confrontations and attacks by psycho vigilantes whose numbers have proliferated exponentially in recent years. Appalling.

This issue is not so easily dismissed when it is a loved one who winds up dead as a result of the 'moral panic', a reaction fostered by incindiary proclamations made by prosecutors, police, courts, opportunistic politicians, media, etc. This is truly appalling.

Posted by: SG | Jun 29, 2023 10:06:00 PM

SG --

As you obviously already know, I never said and don't believe the absurd proposition that all sex offenders are child rapists. At the same time, there ARE child rapists (as you also know). Some of them are violent; some aren't. But even the ones who aren't are not exactly model citizens. Suppose Mr. Nicey entices a six year-old into sex, not by violence, but by flattery and gifts and candy. You may think his behavior isn't a problem but I think it is. If he has to live without a gun, this is not exactly breaking my heart. I've managed to live without one my entire life. Far from being a hardship, it's a source of relief.

These guys are not victims; they're victimizers and deserve to be seen as such. Save your sympathy for the six year-old.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2023 10:09:09 PM

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