Federal Sentencing Reform Can Reduce Prison Crowding and Save Money

In recent weeks, officials from Massachusetts to Nebraska have called for mandatory minimum sentencing reform in order to reduce the hundreds of thousands of inmates deluging the criminal justice system. Yet while state-based reform is slowly enacted, 200,000 inmates remain behind bars in overcrowded federal prisons costing millions of dollars each day. Fortunately, one proposed law may change that: the Smarter Sentencing Act.

Today, the average federal prison is overcrowded by 36 percent. In 2013, the total federal prison system had a capacity rated to hold 132,221 inmates, yet there were 176,484 inmates behind federal bars that year. In some correctional institutions, the inmate population has been50 percent over the rated capacity.

The reason for this overcrowding is in part due to drug laws, and more specifically, mandatory minimum sentencing laws. While initially intended to deter drug use with harsh sentences, mandatory minimums have instead led to a surge of non-violent drug offenders locked in federal penitentiaries without any possibility to negotiate their sentencing.

Drug offenders are now given prison time as part of their sentences at much higher rates than prior to 1986, when Congress established mandatory minimum drug sentences. Moreover, the length of time drug offenders spend in prison has largely increased — drug offenders in federal prison in 2013 were facing an average sentence of 11 years (at a cost of $79 per day for each inmate).

In 2013, more people were admitted to federal prison under drug charges than for any other crime. In fact, nearly half of all current federal prisoners are serving sentences for drug crimes. A main reason for this is because mandatory minimums result in more guilty convictions by shifting discretion from judges to prosecutors. On top of this, drug laws are filled with disparities that result in inordinate convictions.

Take, for example, the sentencing established for drug offenders found guilty of cocaine possession. While the only difference between crack and powdered cocaine is a bit of baking soda and the method of ingestion, the Controlled Substances Act mandates a minimum five-year.

Read the rest at The Hill…


How German Patent Law Cripples Innovation and Curbs Consumer Choice

Patent protection laws aim to incentivize innovation and to allow the inventor and investor to benefit financially from their invention.

Furthermore copycats that free ride someone else’s invention shall be legally prevented from doing this for a set amount of time.

But patent laws in many countries, Germany among these, have helped incentivize an entirely new industry that actually causes the opposite of what patent laws intended to do.

German patent law, and especially how German courts interpret it, disincentives innovation and most start-ups claim that it makes innovation harder.

Germany is the only country that applies so-called Orange Book Laws. Orange Book Laws bundle an entire set of patents into technology standard (e.g. the mobile phone data standard 3G) and obliges every company that uses such a standard in one of their products to compensate any holder of patents listed in that standard.

The problem lies in the nature of these bundles; even if the product does not use certain patents that are defined in that bundle, it still has to compensate owners of these patents.

Technology firms have to proactive proof in court that they explicitly don’t use these patents in order to get away without paying for license fees and potential fines. Prior to winning such an argument the company usually has to go through an injunction put on them by the patent holder.

In order to understand why some companies are actually focusing their business on merely holding patents and suing companies that use industry standards (bundles) it is important to understand what these ‘patent trolls’ are up to.

Read the rest at CapX…

How Immigrants Boost Your Local Economy

Immigrants create jobs for native-born American workers, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper says every immigrant creates 1.2 local jobs for local workers, raises wages for native workers, and attracts native-born workers from elsewhere in the country.

The paper was authored by Gihoon Hong, with Indiana University South Bend, and John McLaren, with the University of Virginia. Hong and McLaren used Census data from 1980-2000 to reach their conclusions.

The arrival of immigrants increases the combined income of a local area, boosting demand for workers in local service jobs, part of the non-traded sector. Hong and McLaren found that these types of local service jobs create more than four-fifths of total income, so immigration to a local area requires more service workers.

“We find that new immigrants tend to raise local wages slightly even in terms of tradeables for jobs in the non-traded sector while they push wages down slightly in the traded sector, and that new immigrants seem to attract native workers into the metropolitan area,” Hong and McLaren wrote. “Overall, it appears that local workers benefit from the arrival of more immigrants.”

Read the rest at The Washington Examiner…