Some States Move on Sentencing Reform

With state budgets devastated by the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent slow economic growth, the impulse to incarcerate is being blunted by fiscal realities. This year, a number of states have passed legislation designed to ease the financial burden of mass incarceration.

The slight trend away from mass incarceration by the states has been evident for the past couple of years, as for the first time in decades, the number of prisoners being held by the states has declined. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2010, the last year for which numbers are available, the number of combined state and federal prisoners declined for the first time since 1972. The decline was driven by the states, with state prison populations down 0.5%, while the federal prison population grew by 0.8%.

A number of states, including California and Texas, have in the past decade begun reforming their sentencing practices, accounting for the decline. Recently passed sentencing reforms in several states could help see those numbers drop even further. These include:

Hawaii

Last month, Gov. Neal Abercrombie (D) signed into law two bills, House Bill 2515 and Senate Bill 2776. They will, among other things, allow judges to impose probation for first- and second-time drug possession charges. The bills also expand the use of pre-trial and parole hearing risk assessment to identify and release low-risk offenders and prisoners. And they provide funds for community-based drug treatment programs.

Illinois

Late last month, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed into law Senate Bill 2621, which restores good time credits to non-violent offenders who complete drug treatment, job training, or other rehabilitation programs. Quinn had suspended the good time credits after a 2010 scandal in which it was revealed that many prisoners had won early release after serving only weeks in prison. The new new law requires prisoners to serve at least 60 days before they could be released for good time credit, and prisoners can earn no more than 180 days of good time credit.

Missouri

Last week, a bill that reduces the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine began law without the signature of Gov. Jay Nixon (D). The bill was approved by the Republican-led legislature on the last day of the session and reduces the state's 75-to-1 ratio in sentencing for the two different types of cocaine to a ratio of about 18-to-1.

New Jersey

Late last month, the legislature passed Senate Bill 881, under which non-violent, drug-dependent offenders will receive treatment rather than prison. The bill also removes prosecutorial objections to sending someone to drug court and expands eligibility for the state's drug court program. Gov. Chris Christie (R) is expected to sign the bill.

Ohio

Late last month, Gov. John Kasich (R) signed into law Senate Bill 337, which allows people to seal the records on one felony and one misdemeanor or two misdemeanor convictions. The idea is to make it easier for former prisoners to find work. The law also creates a certificate of qualification that will give ex-offenders the ability to get some occupational licenses they were previously barred from obtaining.

Pennsylvania

Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed into law Senate Bill 100, which incorporates many of the recommendations of his Justice Reinvestment Working Group and passed both houses of the legislature unanimously. It expands eligibility for alternative sentencing programs, allows for intermediate sanctions so that fewer technical parole violators are sent to prison, and diverts some low-level defendants from prison. But it's not all good: The bill also eliminates the pre-release program that allows qualifying prisoners to be paroled to halfway houses before their minimum dates.

Tennessee

In May, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into law Senate Bill 3520, which allows some former prisoners to expunge certain felonies and misdemeanors from their criminal records. It only applies to those with a single conviction, but legislative fiscal analysts projected it would increase expungement requests by 60,000 a year.

The states are not undertaking a radical rethinking of the rote resort to incarceration, but they are nibbling at the edges, particularly when it comes to drug offenders. Every little bit helps.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Alabama passed sentencing forms too

This year in Alabama we passed a bill making the voluntary guidelines for nonviolent offenders mandatory. We also passed a bill that takes the power to set penalties for nonviolent drug and property crimes away from the legislature and gives it to the sentencing commission. The sentencing commission has long supported an overhaul of the drug laws and a member of my board of directors is on the sentencing commission. It's a major coup :)

Alabama passed sentencing forms too

This year in Alabama we passed a bill making the voluntary guidelines for nonviolent offenders mandatory. We also passed a bill that takes the power to set penalties for nonviolent drug and property crimes away from the legislature and gives it to the sentencing commission. The sentencing commission has long supported an overhaul of the drug laws and a member of my board of directors is on the sentencing commission. It's a major coup :)

Reforms...not forms

Oops

US Still Has the HIGHEST Incarceration rates in the WORLD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

Due only to policy change - not an increase in violent crime.  Not surprising when the country has turned to the likes of CCA, The Geo Group and Wackenhut to institute private prison corporations, which can only increase revenue by adding prisoners, and they donate to politicians to get favorable policy that does just that.

No matter how they try to hide it, it's still the Pied Piper

wanting his due.

The two decades of acting as if the economy would never crash and burn, and thus the US could afford to arrest and incarcerate its' way out of a social and medical problem, led to the situation that is causing these 'reforms' to take place...when there never should have been reason for them in the first place.

This is what happens when the States listen to the Feds about drug prohibition. Don't spend money on schools, build prisons!  Now the State prison systems are bankrupting those States. 

And any Fed 'help' monetary-wise is illusory: the economy is still in the crapper, regardless of (and in no small part thanks to!) the printing of huge amounts of paper money, driving the value of the currency down, and thus the States are not getting any deals from the Feds with these 'grants'. It won't be long before the States have realized  that such are nothing more than band-aids on sucking chest wounds. And it won't be long before the Feds have to rein in the false generosity, as things get worse, and requests to re-allocate resources to social safety net issues become demands.

The same kind of thing happened before with the Great Depression. It was the crappy economy back then that ended alcohol Prohibition. It will be a crappy economy - or a resulting economic collapse - that ends the other drug prohibitions.

The Piper want's his money...and he's not leaving until he gets it.

The two personalities Obama

The two personalities Obama and Eric Holder are well known in the world so this is really an important news about them so thanks a lo for sharing this with us. They are still lying about the medical marijuana raids is really not a negligible thing so we look forward to more information. http://www.pharmaexpressrx.net/

If EVERY human being on the

If EVERY human being on the planet decided to give 100% of all their wealth to the USA in an effort to pay the 16 TRILLION dollar debt we still would not be able to pay it off.

And that is a fact Jack BEFORE Dictator Obama lays out more debt requests at our feet tonight.

Idiots the lot of you who trust he gives a damn about the USA. It's his goal to break our backs in every way possible and he's doing a damn good job of it thus far. Mary J.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School