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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    Please include the entire story (none / 0) (#1)
    by BTAL on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 08:41:32 PM EST
    Holder also stated that he would not prosecute Sanctuary Cities with a very lame "resource application" excuse.

    Sanctuary cities are the Achilles' heel (along with amnesty) of the entire immigration problem resolution.   Until the left agrees to meet at the 50 yard line then there will be many innocents caught in the cross fire.

    Where's the 50-yard line? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jack E Lope on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 08:51:40 PM EST
    ...and who has the ball?

    The party in power (none / 0) (#3)
    by BTAL on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 08:56:40 PM EST
    has the ball.

    The 50 yard line in still in the same place.


    if you are advocating against (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 08:58:41 PM EST
    "sanctuary cities", don't look for support here.

    You are referring to a different speech I think, I just found it here, and I agree with Holder.

    There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law," Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., told The Washington Times. "That's what Arizona did in this case."

    In any event, it's not part of the story about Holder and DOJ changing direction on sentencing.


    I may get banned and (none / 0) (#5)
    by BTAL on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 09:02:44 PM EST
    it is your site, but it is hypocritical to attack AZ for using their resources to enforce federal immigration law then turn a blind eye, actually give a free pass to other govt entities who chose to both passively and proactively avoid federal law.

    AZ is going way beyond enforcing (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 09:24:01 PM EST
    federal immigration law, in my view. No you won't be banned, not for what you've posted so far anyway. You can disagree, so long as you are civil about it and don't do it just to push buttons. You seem legitimately concerned about the particular issue, not just making pro prosecution or anti Obama/Holder points.

    Thank you and ... (none / 0) (#7)
    by BTAL on Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 09:36:07 PM EST
    I come here because it appears to be a location for fair and honest debate (with the normal exceptions to the rule).  Echo chambers are not productive for our country from either side of the aisle.  And, I do learn somethings from the "other side".

    As a web/technology company owner, I appreciate the challenges you face.  You being a lawyer and I a geek, we both know that the 1st Amendment does not apply here - so again, thanks for the opportunity to participate.

    Now, back to the NBPP/Sanctuary City and AZ comparison, does it not raise some sort of "logic/fairness" hairs on the back of one's neck?  


    And thank you for (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:01:42 AM EST
    your considerate postings on this-- even though I totally disagree with you on the content.

    No, it does not raise the hair on the back of this neck.  "Sanctuary cities" are not a significant part of the illegal immigrant problem, they're just deeply annoying to folks on the right wing who love to play the false equivalency game.

    I'm totally in favor of the tri-part approach of "comprehensive immigration reform"-- going after employers, which the Holder DoJ is doing aggressively and very smartly, plus actually securing the border in tandem with constructing a program for legitimizing those who are already here.

    The latter is obviously a political question because if the legitimization doesn't happen at the same time as border security is massively beefed up, the right wing will never allow it to happen, leaving us with hordes of desperate people inside our borders.  No thanks.


    So, the Feds want to cut the costs of crime? (none / 0) (#9)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 07:21:37 AM EST
    A gigantic chunk of the national budget regarding law enforcement is swallowed up by drug prohibition. Now, just imagine what we could do with that money...like extending Unemployment bennies for those in desperate straits.

    Time for the drunken sailor to sober up and quit throwing around money we don't have anymore.

    OMG! Intelligent life prevails in Washington! (none / 0) (#10)
    by Untold Story on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:28:10 AM EST

    Intelligence hasn't prevailed yet... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:14:53 AM EST
    there just looking at policies...lets see if any actually change.

    I suspect when the working group has completed their review their recos will be tossed in the trash if the prison industrial complex has anything to say about it...revolving prison gates are good for bidness.


    A pittance (none / 0) (#11)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:38:11 AM EST
    If that $60 billion is for all state and federal slammers, it is a very small price to pay to keep bad actors away from the rest of us.  

    It is hard to make the case that one or two percent of what the government spends on one of its foremost sole responsibilities is "too much."

    There is a difference between spending money (none / 0) (#12)
    by Untold Story on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:01:16 AM EST
    and throwing money away!

    First of all, many of these prisoners have mental illnesses that need to be addressed in order to prevent the present revolving door system our society must endure.

    Many do not have trades or education and that is why they are imprisoned in the first place.  Why can't we provide trade training, with even job placement for those without prison violations?  Internships, for instant, while a prisoner is doing time?

    IMO, Prisons are corrupt, from their internal administration, guards, on down to the inmates themselves - if not, then drugs, drug trafficking, gang activities, rape, violence would not be tolerated.  Someone is getting paid for not being 'on watch' so to speak.  

    The prison system, as it now exists, is a disaster - a breeding ground for more advanced criminal activity, both within the prison system and expanding beyond the prison walls.

    The focus needs to be on rehabilitation.