Tag Archives: Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Reform For The Skeptics

Though criminal justice reform is having a moment of increasing bipartisan support, not all conservatives are convinced. Those who lived through the high-crime eras of the ’70s and ’80s are unsure whether reducing sentences, even for low-level drug offenses, would be the wisest way to protect the largely declining crime rates the U.S. has enjoyed over the last 25 years.

But one critical fact about the criminal justice system should give even skeptics reason to support some reforms: 95 percent of inmates in our nation’s prisons eventually will be released. That’s more than 650,000 people each year who, if they can’t get jobs and become productive citizens, are far more likely to recidivate. Each one who commits a new crime represents not only a new public-safety threat, but also a steep cost to taxpayers as another corrections-system round kicks into gear. Even those who oppose sentencing reforms should see the financial and moral good in re-entry policies that enable former offenders to support themselves.

read the full article in The Daily Caller.

Criminal justice reform still has important work ahead

After decades of mass incarceration, criminal justice reform is finally garnering widespread support. During the most recent legislative session, positive steps were taken in Springfield to rein in juvenile transfers to adult courts, expand certificates of good conduct and reduce length of jail stays for nonviolent offenders in Cook County, among other changes.

A reform commission formed by Gov. Bruce Rauner has released promising recommendations to give judges more discretion in sentencing, divert low-level offenders, and enhance rehabilitative programing in prisons.

But while proponents of criminal justice reform in Illinois are off to a great start, there’s still plenty of work ahead. Illinois’ prisons remain overcrowded at nearly 143 percent capacity — among the highest rates in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The Illinois Department of Corrections will cost taxpayers $1.4 billion in 2015 — to say nothing of the billions spent on police, courts and jail administration at all levels of government.

It took decades to build the system of mass incarceration Illinois has today — so it will also take time to right-size the state’s criminal justice system. But with smart policy and legislative changes, Illinois can achieve the goal of a lower crime rate, a lower incarceration rate and smarter spending on criminal justice while improving public safety.

To enact these reforms, lawmakers must focus on making sentences fit the crime, relieving budgets by using cost-effective alternatives to incarceration wherever possible, and removing barriers that keep former offenders out of work.

Read the full article at the Daily Herald.