As the 2016 presidential campaign gains steam, it appears that the slogan “tough on crime”, if not totally deflated, seems to be giving way to a call to end mass incarceration. Recent statements by Hilary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marc Rubio, and Jeb Bush, candidates who are rarely on the same page, all acknowledge the country’s criminal justice system needs to be re-thought and re-tooled. And Op-Ed articles are springing up that agree with the candidates
One such piece in the New York Times points out that our judges impose far longer prison sentences than their counterparts in western Europe, with prisoners here facing prison terms twice as long as those sentenced for similar conduct in Great Britain, four times as long as Dutch prisoners, and five to ten times as long as those in France. The authors acknowledge that over half of U.S. prisoners are there for violent crimes, but draw the line at characterizing all as violent persons. They point out that a battered spouse fighting back for her life should hardly be considered as an equal statistic to a cold-blooded murderer, and ask whether long terms handed down without such consideration is just or cost-effective.
A Chicago Sun-Times piece considers one outcome of our overburdened prison systems – inadequate health care, highlighting a study carried out by a group of court-appointed researchers. The 409-page report they released concludes that the 49,000 prisoners in Illinois correctional facilities are receiving grossly inadequate healthcare, and suggests this leaves the state but two choices – spend more money on healthcare or the more feasible option, reduce the population of the over-crowded prisons. The authors suggest, as do those of the Times piece, commuting the sentences of those prisoners over the age of 50 who, studies have shown, age out of their propensity to violence. It also recommends that, after individual assessments, low-level drug offenders should also be considered for early release.
While no one suggests that violent offenders and drug kingpins be released, politicians, researchers, and prison officials alike seem to agree that those serving time for low-level drug-related crimes should be considered likely candidates for early release. Also, since a significant number of these individuals were pursuing one of the few avenues to income available to them, training and meaningful work opportunities should be made available to them.
To this end, another unlikely political duo has teamed up, Kentucky conservative senator and presidiential-hopeful Rand Paul, and liberal New Jersey Senator Corey Booker. The Booker-Paul bill, called the REDEEM Act calls for, among other measures, sealing the prison records of those who served time for low-level drug offenses since having one can be an insurmountable hurdle to getting employment. NJ.com, also cites the Booker statement that while it costs the federal government $29,000 a year to house and care for a prisoner, it costs only $4,000 to monitor his or her probation.
Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Matthew Martin has been fighting this fight for many years, showing clients he has successfully defended that what you do after your arrest has a significant impact on how the case is resolved. If you’ve been arrested, contact us now, and remember, a solid defense begins now, not in the courtroom.