Smarter Sentencing Act

Today we will focus on reforms that have proven to lower the number of imprisoned persons and have increased public safety. First and foremost has to be sentencing reform. CAP has been working on eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and restoring judicial discretion for more than a decade. This has been identified by renowned criminologists as one of the big drivers of the prison population along with sentencing for drug offenses and way too long prison sentences.

A few days ago the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses  would save the federal government $4.36 billion in prison costs.

Imagine how it could help Hawai`i’s budget…restoring the community health system, increasing effective programming in the community such as substance abuse and mental health treatment, developing more community-based  anger management and parenting classes, etc.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that a bill by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would save the federal government $4.36 billion in prison costs by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, The Hill reports.

The CBO report “proves that, not only are mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses often unfair, they are also fiscally irresponsible,” Durbin said. The two senators said their legislation is needed to reduce federal spending and because mandatory minimum drug sentences have caused an unsustainable spike in incarceration rates. Over the past 30 years, the number of inmates in federal prisons has increased by 500 percent.  The bill doesn’t repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions but allows judges to determine a sentence based on an individual’s circumstances. 

CBO: Drug sentencing reform saves $4B
Ramsey Cox, The Hill, Sept. 15, 2014

Excerpt:
“Today’s CBO report proves that, not only are mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses often unfair, they are also fiscally irresponsible,” Durbin said. “By making the incremental, targeted changes that Sen. Lee and I have proposed in our Smarter Sentencing Act, we can save taxpayers billions without jeopardizing public safety.”

***

Smarter Sentencing Act Would Save $4 Billion, Says Congressional Budget Office
FAMM, Sept. 15, 2014

Excerpt:
“…The bill’s savings stem both from requiring less prison time of nonviolent drug offenders and “from lower costs for prisoners’ medical expenses and food as well as prison utilities,” the CBO found. “After 2019, costs for prison construction and staffing also would decline,” said CBO.

“This finding is consistent with the Justice Department’s estimate, showing savings of $3.5 billion over the first 10 years, and an additional $7.8 billion over the second 10 years, for a combined savings of $11.2 billion over 20 years. In FY 2014, prisons consumed 30 percent of the Justice Department’s budget, a situation the Department has repeatedly called “unsustainable” and a threat to funding for prosecutors, criminal investigators, and state and local law enforcement.

“‘There are now at least another four billion good reasons for Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act this year,’ said Molly Gill, FAMM’s government affairs counsel. ‘Republicans, Democrats, prosecutors, and everybody from Grover Norquist to the ACLU agree that we should be saving federal prison cells and funds for the worst of the worst, not wasting them on nonviolent drug offenders who don’t need decades behind bars to learn their lesson. The Smarter Sentencing Act is a win-win situation for Congress and taxpayers. No voter is going to punish a member of Congress at the polls for supporting better justice and more public safety at a much lower price.’…”

To change the awful and unjust course that Hawai`i is on it will take a HUGE COMMUNITY OUTCRY TO DEMAND THAT WE ELIMINATE MANDATORY MINIMUMS FOR DRUG OFFENSES. We have three branches of government to ensure checks and balances. Mandatory sentencing removes discretion from the Judicial branch and instead promotes injustice, racial disparity, and long sentences have proven to increase criminality.

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