Recently in Sentencing Category
The Commission studied offenders released early after a similar 2007 amendment to the guidelines reducing sentences for crack offenders and found that those offenders were no more likely to re-offend than offenders who had served their original sentences.
...policy initiatives curbing over-federalization of criminal law, reforming mandatory minimum sentences and amending the Sentencing Guidelines have the support of the Judicial Conference, but that the Judiciary currently lacks the resources to shoulder resulting increased workload.
"Policy-makers must not create a new public safety crisis in our communities by simply transferring the risks and costs from the prisons to the caseloads of already strained probation officers and the full dockets of the courts," said Judge Irene Keeley, chair of the Judicial Conference Criminal Law Committee."
"The Conference most recently supported, with certain conditions including delayed implementation, retroactivity for the Sentencing Commission's recent amendments to the Drug Quantity Table. Implementing this policy on a retroactive basis will result in many inmates being released from prison and into the custody of probation officers, who work for the Judicial Branch. Without delayed implementation for the Judiciary to seek necessary resources and prepare for this influx of offenders into the probation system, public safety could be compromised."
Very roughly translated, what this means is that we should stand back, take a deep breath, and examine, with patience instead of haste, what the measures already in train (such as lowered present guidelines and DOJ's cutting back on mandatory minimum charges) produce. Will there be big cost savings? Or will there be, as there has been in California, significantly more crime? The Conferences's explicit warning that public safety may be compromised by moving too quickly is a particularly welcome reminder, and should weigh heavily with policy makers.
What's changed the political equation on crime [in the last three decades]? The most important factor is the decline in the crime rate. After surging through the 1980s as the crack epidemic crested, the violent crime rate has fallen almost every year since 1993 and now stands at only about half of what it was then, according to FBI figures. (A separate Bureau of Justice Statistics crime survey shows the violent-crime rate ticking back up over the past two years but still down about two-thirds from its 1993 level.) "We have an incredible opportunity for change because crime is down," says Michael S. Romano, a lecturer at Stanford University Law School.
An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.
More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.
As to drug offenders specifically, you have to read down to the seventh paragraph, which states (emphasis added):
Let's be clear then, about what moving up the release dates of drug traffickers by retroactive application of more lenient guidelines is going to do. It's going to produce more drug trafficking, earlier. It's as simple as that.
Recidivism rates varied with the attributes of the inmate. Prisoners released after serving time for a property offense were the most likely to recidivate. Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders.
- Prof. William G. OtisAdjunct Professor of LawGeorgetown University Law Center
- Mr. Eric EvensonNational Association of Assistant United States Attorneys
- Mr. Marc LevinPolicy DirectorRight on Crime
- Mr. Bryan A. StevensonFounder and Executive DirectorEqual Justice Initiative
I would put a slightly different spin than Bill Otis on the notable fact that the "average age of the Republicans who voted for the [SSA] in committee earlier this year was 45 [while the] average age of the Republicans who opposed it was 69." I would say that supporters of the bill understand that new political and legal realities may call for changing laws passed decades ago, whereas opponents of the bill see little need to update these sentencing laws for modern times.