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Serious Punishment Works

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I was in the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in the 1990's when we initiated Project Exile.  The point of the program was to subject violent, gun-wielding criminals --largely crack dealers-- to relatively harsh federal sentencing instead of the softer sentences in state court.  This considerably swelled the federal district court docket, and the judges didn't like it.  One of them threatened to hold the US Attorney in contempt.  (I helped represent her, I'm happy to say successfully, at the contempt hearing).

One thing prosecutors need to remember is that their constituency is the public, not the bench or bar.  This means they have to be ready for criticism from the latter, much of it unfair if not slanderous.  This will occasionally include outraged, if preposterous, allegations of racism, see, e.g., United States v. Olvis, 97 F.3d 739 (4th Cir. 1996).

Still, it's worth it.  As Doug Berman notes on SL&P, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported yesterday that, over the years of Project Exile, the murder rate in Richmond, once the highest in the country, has been cut by more than three-quarters.

Moral of story:  Impostition of the much-maligned tough federal crack and firearms sentences on thugs has saved innocent people a boatload of pain and misery, not to mention dozens of lives.

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Thank you!

We need a LOT more of this kind of follow-up on past policies, and we need to remember the names of those who predicted Armageddon -- and at least view their latest criticisms of get-tough policies with some scrutiny.

On another note, does anyone have ANY insight on warrant extradition policies? I heard from local PD today that Texas (okay, many County attorneys in Texas) will extradite for jaywalking (certain exaggeration, I'm sure), but would like to know if anyone has studied how letting felons get passes on their crimes by moving elsewhere affects crime rates.

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