Newsbrief: FAMM Study Show States Embracing "Smart on Crime" Reforms 11/14/03

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A new study of state-level criminal justice policy policies commissioned by the sentencing reform group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (http://www.famm.org) has found that half the states have instituted sentencing or other criminal justice reforms as a response to the budget crisis in the states in the last three years.

The report, authored by Judith A. Greene of Justice Strategies, found that sentencing and other reforms are sweeping the country. "From Alabama to Wisconsin, public officials in 25 states have made major improvements in their sentencing and correctional policies. Four more states have similar reform proposals under consideration," said Greene. "Seventeen states, including Michigan, Louisiana, Washington, Texas, Kansas and Mississippi have rolled back mandatory minimum sentences or restructured other harsh penalties enacted in preceding years to 'get tough' on low-level or nonviolent offenders, especially those convicted of drug offenses."

The report names 16 states, including Texas, Washington, Colorado and Kentucky, which have slowed prison population growth by shortening time served in prison, increasing the release rate, and returning fewer parole violators to prison. The report also cites California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia as states that have closed entire prisons to cut corrections costs.

But according to FAMM, it is not just the bottom line that is driving the trend. "The growing movement toward 'smart on crime' sentencing and corrections policies is not driven solely by dollars," said Laura Sager, FAMM executive director. "In the last few years, there has been a major shift in public opinion and political will away from criminal justice policies that do not distinguish between offenders and waste precious tax resources on incarcerating too many low-level, nonviolent lawbreakers."

Read the study, "Smart On Crime: Positive Trends in State-Level Sentencing and Corrections," online at:
http://www.famm.org/nr_sentencing_news_trends_report_11_03.htm

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