Thursday, December 13, 2012

Growing, Growing, Gone...

The conclusion of a new (and, at eight pages, immensely readable) report from the Urban Institute highlights how our federal prison population has been growing, growing, growing ... leaving empty space all but gone, baby, gone.

Currently, a whopping one in every four dollars of the Department of Justice's budget is spent on prisons.  Those prisons aren't stuffed with Al Capones and serial rapists, either:  half of federal prisoners are there for a drug offense.

Unsurprisingly, the report finds that sentences are the problem.  Mandatory minimum sentences.  Long sentences.  Too many of both for nonviolent offenders.  It all adds up to an overcrowded, expensive, unsustainable federal prison system that is chewing up the Justice Department's budget like it's the yummiest figgy pudding this side of a Merry Christmas.  (Forgive me.  Too many Christmas carols.)

One of our ideas for improvement:  a broader safety valve, so judges are not required to give mandatory minimum terms when they would be excessive, unnecessary, or absurdly unjust.  Enough madness is enough. An expanded safety valve is one small, simple, and sane way to slow down this out-of-control prison growth.

-- Stowe

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

If you know what needs to be done to help resolve the problem, then why not do something about it. Michael Jordan said it best in the NIKE commercial years ago, JUST DO IT. Congress made the mess, to make themselves and their rich friends RICHER, and made everyone else suffer . So now it time for the tables to turn.