Archive for August, 2013

Major Changes in Federal Sentencing Policies

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder"s speech to the American Bar Association last week called for "sweeping, systematic changes to the U.S. justice system, which are long overdue and very much welcomed. He outlined his new Smart On Crime plan for the Justice Department.

In speaking of his reforms, Holder said, We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. In addition to the new Justice Department policies, Holder also pointed to bi-partisan supported legislation that would save the nation billions of dollars by taking a more strategic approach to incarceration. For example, $80 billion was spent on incarceration in the U.S. in 2010 and the U.S. continues to incarcerate the largest percentage of its population than any other country.

Holder also described the Justice Department"s proactive partnering with the U.S. Department of Education to address a school-to-pipeline system and zero-tolerance discipline policies. He said these policies should land a student at a police station facing charges for a minor offense.

The Smart on Crime plan also includes expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, which I agree and support. As Holder explained, incarceration can be an effective tool with strategic use when coupled with other components to cultivate a successful justice system and a safe community.

Alternatives to incarceration have proven to be effective by numerous studies and implementations by state and local governments. While Holder"s plan does not necessarily include electronic monitoring in every jurisdiction just beginning the dialogue on a national level is a huge start in the change process. Hopefully, this start will trickle down to more jurisdictions and allow further alternatives and sentencing reform to take hold.

If you ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I ve addressed this topic before and shared the actions taken by individual states to improve their justice system by various means. So, it"s encouraging to see this emphasis on Justice Reinvestment is now taking hold at the federal level.