Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cornyn among sponsors of federal Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act

I don't closely track federal legislation, so I'd failed to notice that Texas Sen. John Cornyn is among the sponsors of the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act, which was approved by the US Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. See a "lobby packet" (pdf) supporting the bill from the Council of State Governments' Justice Center. Go here for the bill text. Here's a description of the legislation from a press release dated November 16, 2009 when the bill was filed:
United States Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced today the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help states and localities better understand how to manage the growth in prison and jail populations and increase public safety. The legislation would authorize grants to analyze criminal justice trends and to design and implement policies to better manage prison spending. Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) also introduced companion legislation today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"This bill will help state and local governments spend their limited corrections budgets in a more targeted, rational way to both manage inmate population growth and protect public safety," Senator Whitehouse said.

"The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will help states find the best ways help better manage prison spending. The experience of states like Texas with this type of program has been uniformly positive and should be replicated," said Senator Cornyn.

"In recent years, federal and state governments have passed many new criminal laws creating more and longer sentences for more and more crimes," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "While it is important to ensure that serious crimes result in significant sentences, we must work to make our criminal justice system as effective and efficient as possible. We have an obligation to help states cope with overburdened criminal justice systems and rising recidivism rates. The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will help jurisdictions to deal with the increased costs facing our correctional systems across the country, while also improving public safety and reducing recidivism."

"In California, we are all too aware of the costs of failing to end the revolving door in and out of prison," said Congressman Schiff. "If we don't do a better job reducing the rate of return to custody, we will have little or no money to invest in education, health care and other critical priorities. The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will employ proven strategies that drive down costs as they drive down recidivism, and thereby improve safety in our cities and neighborhoods."

Over 2,200,000 American adults are incarcerated in state and local prisons and jails; the prison population alone nearly tripled between 1987 and 2007, from 585,000 to almost 1,600,000 inmates. States, in turn, have increased spending on corrections by $40 billion in the past 20 years. Despite the continued growth of the inmate population, about half the states plan to cut corrections budgets for FY2010 amid budget shortfalls.

The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009 would create a two-part grant program for governments to analyze criminal justice trends, develop policy options to address growth in the corrections system, and implement and measure the impact of the policy changes. Through Phase 1 grants, government entities will be able to conduct a comprehensive analysis of corrections data, evaluate the cost-effectiveness of state and local spending on corrections, and develop policy options suggested by the analysis. Phase 2 grants will provide funds to help government entities implement those policy options and to measure their effectiveness. Model programs in Rhode Island and Texas have already shown that this type of analysis can dramatically reduce unnecessary spending.

It sounds like this legislation seeks to build on Texas' recent successes at reducing its incarceration rate, and one notices the bipartisan sponsorship at the national level on this topic even in these ultra-partisan times. Perhaps this means there's political momentum and even potential federal support for building on recent successes and reducing the prison population even more.

9 comments:

Dave said...

Glad to see something being done. I guess our federal dollars do work sometimes.

Anonymous said...

i know it wont happen, but maybe they should also look at the programs that damn people that have completed their time, and also to allow those that accepted Deferred adjudication to restart their lives without the hangman's noose above their head for the rest of their lives. It costs little to keep a database, but the amounts spent on programs to continue the punitive effects on released persons would save Billions over the life of the projects.

Anonymous said...

New to the sight and like what I see.
I would like to know more about early release from PAROLE in Texas. Is this a reality yet? I thought at one time I'd caught a new item about this, but have been unable to locate any further information.

Texas has a ridiculous number of people on parole, largely because of a system that requires supervision until expiration of the sentence. Some people are on parole over 20 years, suggesting inefficiency. One would think that after violation free decade or two, that the offender has demonstrated enough of whatever entitles them to live in the community.

Thanks for any information your community may have.

Dave said...

Anon 2:45,

To be released from supervision, a releasee must be granted permission from a Regional Parole Supervisor.

The specifics would take up too much space so, you can do an internet search for Texas Government Code 508.1555.

Charity said...

"Some people are on parole over 20 years, suggesting inefficiency. One would think that after violation free decade or two, that the offender has demonstrated enough of whatever entitles them to live in the community." Anon 2:45

Anyone on parole for 20 years has committed a SERIOUS crime.

Think Jaycee Dugard. Her captor was on parole for both state and federal charges stemming from another kidnapping and sexual assault for when he kidnapped her. She was held captive for years, raped repeatedly, and had two children of his. Just because one appears to be violation free does not mean they are. Granted, the entire parole system dropped the ball in this case in a horrible way but, being the type of offender he is, long term parole supervision was not a bad idea. Data and research support there are some types of offenders who need supervision, maybe indefinitely. Some inefficiency, in my opinion, can be tolerated in the name of public safety.

Anonymous said...

"Some inefficiency, in my opinion, can be tolerated in the name of public safety."

Sorry I don't follow. You mentioned "type of offender he is", meaning what exactly/ Please don;t say you're one fo the people that believes that because they individual is a sex offender they are incurable, or re-offending because ' they all do'...

The main reason that Phillip Garrido got away with it for so long, is exactly the reason the sexual offender registry needs to be looked at again and completely overhauled. The inclusion of so many people that show no pre-disposition of re-offense is exactly how he flew under the radar. We have tests today that can give a good idea of the one time offenders and the much lower percentage re-offenders. Currently in the US we include 100% of all sexual offenders on the registry, but only 3 to 7% of them will ever re-offend. This is proven in study after study, yet they continue to move low level crimes on the registry as a way to control a certain part of the population. Take out the kids having consensual sex with other kids, take out the urinators, the flashers, the one timers, and you will have your 3 to 7% of true hard core offenders who DO hit their victims over the head and kidnap them. Keeping the guy who picked up the fake ID at the bar on the registry for life is not only counter productive, it is also allows the Phillip's of the world to continue to go under the radar.

Charity said...

No, I do not believe they are all incurable; yet I know some of them are. It is possible to be both hopeful and realistic.

As to most of your other points, I agree with you.

"the inclusion of so many people that show no pre-disposition of re-offense is exactly how he flew under the radar. We have tests today that can give a good idea of the one time offenders and the much lower percentage re-offenders. Currently in the US we include 100% of all sexual offenders on the registry, but only 3 to 7% of them will ever re-offend. This is proven in study after study, yet they continue to move low level crimes on the registry as a way to control a certain part of the population. Take out the kids having consensual sex with other kids, take out the urinators, the flashers, the one timers, and you will have your 3 to 7% of true hard core offenders who DO hit their victims over the head and kidnap them. Keeping the guy who picked up the fake ID at the bar on the registry for life is not only counter productive, it is also allows the Phillip's of the world to continue to go under the radar."

Yep, I agree with all of that (except for maybe the one timers because it would depend on the nature of the offense; and how do you know they are only one timers until they become a two-timer?), but in your original post you did not differentiate between the categories you are now discussing nor were you as specific concerning your opinion.

I disagree with your assumption that just because someone is offense free for say, 20 years, you are guaranteed they will never offend again. While time does show a positive correlation with lower recidivism rates for SOME offenders, crime is not an exact science and things do happen so, in my opinion, the nature of the committing offense needs to be a big factor while deciding length of supervision.

I agree more comprehensive assessment IS needed and it has been something I have advocated for on the juvenile level for three years now. On the other hand, no test is an exact science either. It is only one indicator of possible outcome and we are dealing with people. We don't keep people locked up JUST on the basis of a test result so we should not free them JUST on the basis of a test result. Our lives are not always reflected by the bubbles we fill in on a test.


So what I meant by type of offender in my original post is exactly as you defined it: "your 3 to 7% of true hard core offenders who DO hit their victims over the head and kidnap them."

Had I known the only folks you were referring to were the other 93-97% of sex offenders I did not use as an example, I could have clarified my thoughts better originally, especially since the issue of parole applies to more than sex offenders.

Thanks for helping me to further clarify my thoughts on the issue.

Enjoy the weekend.

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