Recently in Sentencing Category

An implicit assumption in the outcry for releasing "nonviolent offenders" is that criminals specialize, and a person in prison for, say, burglary, is no more likely to commit a violent crime than regular law-abiding people are.  Last month, California voters approved an initiative for releasing supposedly "nonviolent" criminals by a landslide even while they rejected an initiative to repeal the death penalty by a greater margin than they did four years ago.  That indicates the extent to which the "nonviolent offender" myth has taken hold.

But it's a bunch of hooey.  Today the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released supplemental data on Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010.

How many prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested by 2010, and for what crimes?

For those committed for violent offenses, 33.1% were rearrested for another violent offense.  For those whose most serious commitment offense was classified as a property offense, 28.5% were rearrested for a violent offense.

Is that a big difference?  No, it is a small, bordering on trivial, difference.  The premise that "nonviolent offenders" can be released without placing law-abiding people at increased risk of violent victimization is just plain wrong.
I wrote a few days ago about the hundreds of victims of murder, rape and robbery whose victimizers were set loose early because of the sentencing "reform" statute followed in the District of Columbia.  That statute, the Youth Rehabilitation Act, was born of exactly and precisely the thinking that continues to push sentencing "reform" in Congress:  That we must avoid the collateral consequences of giving young adults a felony record, that we're too punitive, that the system is racially biased, and that everyone deserves a second chance. 

The problem is that these "youthful offenders" overwhelmingly do not get rehabilitated, having no particular interest in the matter.  And why should they? The system itself rushes to tell them that their predation just isn't that serious.  To whatever minor extent it is, however, the problem is not with them.  It's with us. The difficulty lies not with their behavior, but with the fact that the electorate (particularly Trump voters) are simpleminded trailer park trash, prosecutors are extortionists, and cops are Nazis.

Where this sort of thinking leads is the subject of another excellent article in today's Washington Post, "The crimes against them were terrifying, but the judicial system made it worse."  (Link not presently available, but you can Google the title).

Avoid Mandatory Minimums, This Is What You Get

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The Washington Post published a story today that should bring shame to the cheerleaders for "leniency" for "young offenders" in order to give them a "second chance."  

I've been asking for years, "A second chance to do what?" The Post, a liberal paper that supports sentencing "reform," has the admirable and astonishing honesty finally to answer that question (emphasis added):

Hundreds of criminals sentenced by D.C. judges under crafted to give second chances to young adult offenders have gone on to rob, rape or kill residents of the nation's capital....

In dozens of cases, D.C. judges were able to hand down Youth Act sentences shorter than those called for under mandatory minimum laws designed to deter armed robberies and other violent crimes. The criminals have often repaid that leniency by escalating their crimes of violence upon release.

Are the people who support avoiding, diluting (or, in some cases, outright repealing) mandatory minimums listening?  Let me ask that another way:  Can they take time off from their catered Bethesda and Georgetown parties to give a hoot about the mostly African American population they leave behind in DC to fend for themselves?

LifeZette, a new on-line magazine, is a breath of fresh air in Washington, DC. Instead of the weary, threadbare cliches from the liberal Establishment that have been driving the conversation inside the Beltway for decades, it presents a frankly conservative perspective.  

I was grateful to be able to contribute mine this morning, "Trump Can Reverse the Deadly Spike in Violent Crime."
Expecting the sourpuss contingent at the New York Times to give Jeff Sessions a fair shake is like expecting George Soros to have a kind word for America.  So it was no surprise when the Times' hatchet job appeared a few days ago, "Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: An Insult to Justice."  There was the usual wail about racism, as phony as it is ancient, but what caught my eye was this breathtakingly ignorant squib about Sen. Sessions and sentencing "reform":

Based on his record, we can form a fairly clear picture of what his Justice Department would look like:....Forget [about] any federal criminal-justice reform, which was on the cusp of passage in Congress before Mr. Trump's "law and order" campaign. Mr. Sessions strongly opposed bipartisan legislation to scale back the outrageously harsh sentences that filled federal prisons with low-level drug offenders. Instead, he called for more mandatory-minimum sentences and harsher punishments for drug crimes.

Question:  Does the NYT have anyone  --  really, anyone  --  in Washington who actually follows justice-related legislation?

Sentencing Commission: Do No (More) Harm

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For about the last two years, there has been a major crime surge across this country, as even liberals now concede.  The heroin crisis is out of control.  A major part of the reason for this is repeat criminals:  It would be all to the good if the thousands of inmates we release each year went straight, but by-and-large, that is not what happens.  To the contrary, we have an appalling overall recidivism rate of 77%. For violent crimes, it's over 70%.  And all those figures are low, because a huge amount of crime never gets reported.  This is particularly true of drug crimes, a major component of federal criminal enforcement.

Sooner or later, virtually all criminals will finish serving their sentences, and it would be unjust (and illegal) to keep them incarcerated simply because we know the majority will go back to crime.  Some will indeed straighten out and, regardless, indefinite incarceration is not the American way.

But we face an entirely different situation with respect to criminals who get early release from legal sentences they have earned.  In federal jurisdiction, thousands of early releases have already been allowed, and many thousands more are underway.  This is a part of the recidivism (and the related crime surge) problem we can do something about right now.  Specifically, the US Sentencing Commission must curb its early release binge.  First, however, it will have to show at least a modicum of interest in the degree of harm its early release policies have already caused, and how much more damage, if left unchanged, they are likely to foment.

Victims of early-released federal inmates are human beings with rights and feelings no less than their victimizers.  They deserve our attention and help.  At rock bottom minimum, they deserve more attention from the Sentencing Commission than they've been getting. 

Sentencing Reform Gets Creamed

Many in the "sentencing reform" community thought that, while they lost in this Congress, they would win in the next one.

So much for that.

The Republicans kept their Senate majority, meaning that Mitch McConnell will remain as Majority Leader.  Since, in addition, the law-and-order candidate won the Presidency, it will not be difficult for Sen. McConnell to maintain his wise opposition to mass sentencing reduction.

I'll be eager to see the spin the sentencing "reformers" will put on their wipeout tonight; they are nothing if not creative.  But make no mistake, the results of this election, combined with the horrendous spike in violent crime over the last two years, spell the end of the road for sentencing "reform."
A:  In a word, no.  Not close.

I want to follow up on Kent's post about the Gallup poll on sentencing, focusing specifically on drugs. My reason is that the sentencing reform proposals in Congress concentrate mainly on lowering drug sentences. This has also been the focus of the (liberal majority) Sentencing Commission in recent years. 

One of the things I often hear when I debate sentencing "reform" is that lowering sentences is the politically astute thing for Republicans to do.

That is simply false.
As noted in a CJLF press release last month, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) reported a 3% increase in violent crime in 2015 over 2014.  Today, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) showed no statistically significant change.  The lesson here is in the limitations of statistics.
Justin McCarthy has this article for Gallup. 

Q:  In general, do you think the criminal justice system in this country is too tough, not tough enough or about right in its handling of crime?

A: 45% not tough enough, 35% about right, 14% too tough, 6% duh.

Gallup headlines the fact that "not tough enough" has dropped substantially over the years, but most of that drop has gone to the Goldilocks answer of "about right."  Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we have heard from academia and the press over the last decade or so, only 1 American in 7 thinks the system is too tough.

The other half of the split sample was asked specifically about drugs, with a quite different result:

No on 57 Press Conference

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This morning I attended a press conference by the opposition to California Proposition 57, Gov. Brown's Jailbreak Initiative.  The campaign website is here.

Mass Sentencing Reduction Reportedly Still Dead

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The New York Times carries this story:

A major criminal-justice overhaul bill seemed destined to be the bipartisan success story of the year, consensus legislation that showed lawmakers could still rise above politics.

Then the election, Donald J. Trump's demand for "law and order" and a series of other political calculations got in the way.

Senate Republicans divided on the wisdom of reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences. Other Republicans, unhappy that President Obama was reducing hundreds of federal prison sentences on his own, did not want to give him a legacy victory. A surge in crime in some urban areas gave opponents of the legislation a new argument.

Now, the Senate authors of the legislation say it is effectively dead.

"I do believe it is over," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No .2 Democrat in the Senate, who put considerable effort into difficult negotiations with Republicans to strike a compromise. "We missed an opportunity."

I agree with Senator Durbin that the Senate missed an opportunity  --  an opportunity to multiply the Wendell Callahan scandal and endanger the country.

Q: When Do You Know You Can Stop Reading?

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A:  When the article's abstract starts with this:

Criminal justice debt has aggressively metastasized throughout the criminal system.  A bewildering array of fees, fines, court costs, non-payment penalties, and high interest rates have turned criminal process into a booming revenue center for state courts and corrections.  As criminal justice administrative costs have skyrocketed, the burden to fund the system has fallen largely on the system's users, primarily poor or indigent, who often cannot pay their burden.

Unpaid criminal justice debt often leads to actual incarceration or substantial punitive fines, which turns rapidly into "punishment." Such punishment at the hands of a court, bureaucracy, or private entity compromises the Sixth Amendment right to have all punishment imposed by a jury.

An author who actually thinks there is a "Sixth Amendment right to have all punishment imposed by a jury" is so completely ignorant that, if you continue reading, you're just going to kill your brain cells.

(You also gotta love "the system's users," i.e., convicted criminals who skate with a fine but won't pay even that).

Credit to this entry on SL&P.

While Barack Obama, surrounded with the world's best security detail, opens the prison gates to hundreds of dealers in hard drugs  --  dozens with firearms convictions as well  -- citizens living in less secure circumstances suffer.

Does his Administration care?

His US Attorney for the District of Columbia managed to yawn out this statement:

Unfortunately, no system is perfect, and in those isolated instances in which problems are identified, we work with our law enforcement partners to address them moving forward.

Excuse my Latin, but that is unadulterated horse manure.  He might as well have said, "What, me worry?"

The liberal police chief in DC recently resigned, in significant part because she had seen enough mindless leniency. 

The problem is not over-incarceration, despite the insistence of the pro-criminal crowd currently running DOJ.  The problem, which they would see under their noses if they cared enough to look, is the opposite.
Earlier this summer, the lenient sentence given to Stanford student Brock Turner for a sexual assault on an unconscious young woman sparked national outrage.  Friday, he was released from jail after serving only half of that.  Paul Elias has this story for AP, with extensive background on the case.

What lessons should we draw from this double outrage?

First, the excessively lenient sentence demonstrates why we cannot vest too much discretion to judges to grant leniency.  In other words, it demonstrates--conclusively, in my mind--that we will always need "mandatory minimums" in some form for some crimes.

Second, Turner's release in 3 months when sentenced to 6 demonstrates that we need to be very careful with "credits" against sentences and award them only when they serve an important function.

Third, given the number of people guilty of serious crimes who are now sentenced to county jail in California, it is imperative that we build enough jail capacity to hold them for every single day for which they are sentenced, reduced only by those judiciously awarded credits.

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