Saturday, August 17, 2013

'America is waking up to the cost of mass incarceration'

What do Texas Governor Rick Perry and US Attorney General Eric Holder have in common? Via The Economist:
ERIC HOLDER and Rick Perry (pictured) have little in common. America’s attorney-general is black, liberal and uses the word “community” a lot. The governor of Texas is white, conservative and says “God” a lot. Last month Mr Holder’s Justice Department sued Texas for allegedly trying to make it harder for blacks to vote. Last year Mr Perry ran to unseat Mr Holder’s boss, Barack Obama.

On one thing, however, the two men agree. On August 12th Mr Holder said: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” He then unveiled reforms to reduce the number of people sent to America’s overcrowded federal prisons. In this, he was following the perfectly-coiffed Texan’s lead. Several years ago, Mr Perry enacted similar reforms in the Lone Star State, and they worked. ...

The high cost of mass incarceration has attracted attention from both left and right. In March Rand Paul, a Republican senator, and Patrick Leahy, a Democratic one, introduced the Justice Safety-Valve Act of 2013, which would let judges impose sentences below the mandatory minimum. In July Mr Leahy, along with Dick Durbin and Mike Lee, a Democrat from Illinois and a Republican from Utah, introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013. It would, among other things, shorten mandatory minimums and expand the safety-valve. ...

As Mr Holder noted, these policy shifts mirror similar ones that more than half of all American states have enacted over the past decade. The wave began with Texas—then as now led by Mr Perry—which in 2003 passed a law sending people convicted of possessing less than a gram of drugs to probation rather than prison. In 2007 Texas allocated $241m for drug-treatment and alternatives to prison for non-violent offenders. Between 2003 and 2011 violent crime in Texas fell by 14.2%. The state’s prison population has also declined steadily. Sentencing reform passed in Georgia—where one in 13 adults is imprisoned, on probation or on parole—will save the state an estimated $264m over the next five years. Kentucky’s is forecast to save the state $400m while reducing its prison population by 3,000 over the next ten years.

14 comments:

Harry Homeless said...

So if they had the money they'd keep screwing people over? That's not a concern for justice. Bottom line is Perry and Holder are still two very corrupt people and we all know where that ultimately leads regardless of finances.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I've gotta say, I'm a bit more outcome-focused. I don't really care what their motives are, in this case both did the right thing and both could and should have done more.

Harry Homeless said...

I'm outcome based too, meaning it's myopic to look at this undulation as a correction in our path. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason still ultimately leads to destruction (see Iraq, and that bill has yet to be paid in full). There are no shortcuts, a dedication to justice is the only way to life.

Anonymous said...

And yet the violent crime rate continues to drop. Oh the irony.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Harry, if the feds had to balance their budgets, the economic arguments would have held more sway on our various, pointless wars. Thankfully, Texas can't accrue debt like that; like most states, we pay as we go.

In my experience the strongest public policies are ones where people from different ideologies can find reasons to support them for different reasons. You may want fewer prisons because of a commitment to "justice." Rick Perry may have done it out of fiscal conservatism. Others may have supported probation reform to reduce recidivism and crime. But the reason it passed is because all those views could be incorporated without stepping on one another's toes.

It's hard enough to get folks to agree on any particular policy in politics. It's damn near impossible if you insist that they support it for the same reasons you do.

jerry howeth said...

Faced with the facts of life (stuff costs a lot), we may finally do the right thing - even if for the wrong reason.

Anonymous said...

i live in texas i dont see any reduction of prison time for non violent crimes or help for people that ask for help for drug proplems,they just stick them behind bars and forget about them, if they were realy wanting to help with the theif and burgley they need to give these people a fighting chance and help them, my son got 7 years for a petty theif charge and less than a gram of coke "way less" yes he had a record but it all stemed from his habbit no violent crimes he ask for help they told him it was to late for him to get help, whene is it to late to help someone that wants and needs help, and how does it help my just throwing them into prison for 7 years it makes the problem worse, so dont be fooled if you think theres help out there thats a joke, all the state attorneys want is another notch in there holsters dont give a dam about the drug habbit that put them in the system in the first place or the familys of the addicts just lock em up, the system sucks it's a revolving door and thats what they like f-up some more familys the system is the real problem it's all about the$$$$$$$$$ the courts and lawyers make and if you cant afford a big crooked pat each others pocket lawyer you can bet you are skrewed in the system, and if you are lucky enough to get probation or parole you are skrewed again because no employer will hire a felon at least no job that you could realy make it on,take care of your family keep a roof over your head and pay your fines, and supervition costs
it's no joke believe me, and if anyone thinks it is you got blinders on or never had a loved one in the system i'am talking about poor people that have no means to fight it they have to be knock down on a daily basics thats the reson most end up back in prison no help outside the gray walls of hell!!!!! the infernos of texas!!

McKee said...

These leaders have it all wrong. We don't lock up low-level drug offenders because of their possession of illegal drugs per se. We lock them up because they are the ones that rob, steal, rape, cheat, live off the government, murder, assault and abuse and neglect their children- clogging up the CPS system and costing the State millions in court appointed attorney fees and other related matters.

We need to face it that meth addiction for the most part is untreatable with today's remedies and options. Lets quit lying to ourselves and others. I have been on both sides of the coins of this business for many years and have come to this sad but true conclusion.

I have seen it with my own eyes. Locking up low level drug offenders does cost the state millions, but what the politicians don't talk about is the billions in savings we get when they are off the streets. No one wants to talk about the 2nd and 3rd order effects. The safer communities, safer children and lower social costs. For every doper we take off the streets, our community and children are just a little bit safer.

Just sayin!

Anonymous said...

and you are so full of bs and for every drug dealer that you take down thers 10 to replace them, focus on taking down the big dogs so the so called "doper" as you call them has a fighting chance and i got news for you they are not all bad people just need some help you are just like all the rest of the dumb ass's to say the streets are safer etc. and the familys are better off, what ferry tale world do you live in you don't know jack s--t

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 19:00

Why is it the state's responsibility to help YOUR son? Isn't he your responsibility?

Thats why there is so many problems in today's world. Too many people don't want to man up to their own self made problems and want a handout from the government.

Thats where all the money in society goes. To helping those that their own family's wouldn't help.

Anonymous said...

Texas has a serious problem. They think giving people a long sentence will make others safer. It has not worked in the last 50 years, so why do they think this is the best way. Soonner or later these people go home, cannot get a job because they are not trained to get a job. They have to live, so they resort back to what they done before, in order to live. The Parole and Probation Dept, are not releasing enough inmates. I know of inmates that were given long sentences that go before the parole Board , are denied and not told why. This is a shame!!!!!! Shame on Texas, this is one reason Perry was denied votes to run for President of the U.SA. People know Texas is not ran as it should. people read the newspapers and are aware of these silly rules Texas has

Vincent van Gogh said...

TDCJ has $750,00 to build A/C enclosures to raise pigs but, there doesn't seem to be any money for needed infer structure improvements to existing prisons. On top of that it is possible the State will be ordered to come up with the funding to install A/C in some 100 prisons that were not engineered for it in the first place and then pay the electric bill. Where is this staggering amount of money going to come from. I don't think the tax payers can be counted on for all of it.

If A/C in Texas prisons becomes a reality reducing the prison population will also become a reality.

Anonymous said...

and how do you come to the conclution, that the familys dont help? i just think you like to let your mouth over run your pee brain,anyone knows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. you must be a lawyer or d.a.or close yes the state should help with the problems that they are creating,o thats right tx. dont care about a human just "PIGS"

Anonymous said...

IF THE US HAS AN "A-HOLE TEXAS IS IT!!!