AG Holder Expresses Commitment to New Crime Fighting Policy
Speaking in New Orleans this week, Attorney General Eric Holder said it's time to "turn the page" on our approach to crime and expressed commitment to re-entry programs.
...we can’t simply arrest our way out of the problem of violent crime. Of course, incarceration is necessary for public safety. But it’s only partially responsible for the declining crime rates we’ve seen. It’s not a sole, economically sustainable, solution.
Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet, at a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. People who have been incarcerated are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers and surrounded by others in similar circumstances. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.
As so many of you have pointed out, any real effort to contain spending on corrections, while ensuring public safety, must include a strong focus on preparing for reentry. Effective reentry programs provide our best chance for safeguarding our neighborhoods and supporting people who have served their time and are also resolved to improve their lives.
Holder went on to discuss DOJ's new Sentencing and Corrections Working Group. Its task:
to take a fresh look at federal sentencing practices and determine how we can better prepare federal prisoners to transition back into their communities.
He also called for a holistic approach:
Federal prosecutors must become neighborhood problem solvers, not simply case processors. They must partner with all levels of law enforcement and with all sorts of community partners. Just as surely as U.S. Attorneys, law enforcement officials and leaders across the Justice Department must come together, we must also include more community leaders, teachers, coaches, principals and – above all – parents in our work.
On a related note, Law Prof Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy notes that DOJ seems to be encouraging a reduction in child p*rn sentencing guidelines. Here's the letter DOJ sent to the Sentencing Commission June 28.
We also believe the Commission should conduct a review of — and consider amendments to — those guidelines that have lost the backing of a large part of the judiciary. These reviews should begin with the guidelines for child pornography possession offenses and fraud offenses....
...We believe changes in the use of technology and in the way these crimes are regularly carried out today suggest that the time is ripe for evaluating the current guidelines and considering whether reforms are warranted.
Prof. Berman adds:
The references here to "changes in the use of technology" and to the need for "the child pornography sentencing guidelines to better calibrate the severity and culpability of defendants' criminal conduct" suggest to me that the Justice Department largely agrees with the view of many federal judges that the guidelines are too severe when recommending very long prison sentences for defendants who merely download lots of child porn pictures via file-sharing programs. I suspect the Justice Department sensibly and wisely believes that reformed federal guidelines recommending shorter (but still significant) prison terms for child porn downloading would lead to more consistency in the sentencing of these offenses.
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