Tag: Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice Reform Is Necessary

 

Jails-620x394My friend Sean Kennedy asserts in a column at Real Clear Policy that the “Bipartisan Push for Criminal Justice Reform Is Misguided.” I respectfully disagree. On the contrary, criminal justice reform is a conservative effort that is necessary to restrain government that has grown too large, powerful, and costly.

Criminal justice reform, or CJR for short, is a broad-based movement made up of numerous policy reforms taking place mostly at the state level. Texas has pioneered many of the reforms and has inspired a growing number of states to follow suit which has led to, among other beneficial results, reduced recidivism rates and lower prison costs.

CJR is a policy response to the problem of overcriminalization which can be defined as the criminalization of routine behavior that has no business being criminalized and the overly burdensome punishments that are handed down for minor infractions. Or to put it another way, we have too many statutory and administrative laws that are too vague and carry overly disproportionate penalties in contravention to the old saying that “the punishment must fit the crime.”

Civil Asset Forfeiture Has Been Eliminated in the Cornhusker State

 

civil-asset-forfeiture-591x394In a boon to innocent property owners in the Cornhusker State, Nebraska has become the tenth state in the country to require a criminal conviction in all or most cases before law enforcement agencies may perfect a forfeiture proceeding.

Asset forfeiture is the process by which law enforcement agencies can seize and keep property suspected of being involved in criminal activity. While purported to be a crime-fighting tool, the process has blossomed beyond this original purpose, whereby even innocent property owners—who oftentimes aren’t even charged with a crime—have been ensnared into a net cast too wide. As a result, modern civil forfeiture has become a multi-billion dollar windfall for law enforcement agencies nationwide in the past several decades, who have overleveraged themselves on a practice at odds with constitutional liberties.

From Forbes:

Colson Task Force Details Recommendations for Federal Corrections Reform

 

10522In a press conference today, members of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections released a report detailing the findings of their year-long effort to identify the main drivers of federal corrections growth, and have recommended many broad reforms that states have adopted recently.

Over the course of the last ten years, states have confronted a stark realization that the previous decade’s worth of largely unrestrained growth in their corrections systems has become unsustainable. Not only were states lacking a return on their investment in terms of public safety — evidenced in part by stubbornly high recidivism rates — but, in pure dollar terms, their corrections expenditures have often times been the second fastest-growing area of their respective budgets (behind Medicaid).

Many states have now re-considered their previous “tough on crime” approach — which was, admittedly, an understandable reaction to the high crime rates of the ’60s and ’70s, but has nonetheless led to explosive prison growth — and instead have shifted to a more individualized, evidence-based model that prioritizes resources, seeks alternatives to incarceration, and saves taxpayers money responsibly.

Comprehensive and Common Sense Justice Reform in Maryland

 

Jails-620x394Last week in the Baltimore Sun, Robert Ehrlich highlighted a comprehensive justice reform package released last month in Maryland that seeks to “further reduce the state’s incarcerated population, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.”

Compiled by the “Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Panel,” which convened upon Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature of legislation during the 2015 session, the package addresses years worth of growing expenses in Maryland that has lead to, in Ehrlich’s words, a “bloated and inefficient” corrections system:

“For example, last year the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services accounted for nearly 14 percent of the total state workforce and 7.1 percent of expenditures from the general fund. State spending on corrections has increased by 10 percent since 2006, adjusted for inflation.”