Decrease sentencing for non-violent drug offenders, decrease costs. It’s a band-aid win for the federal government who wants to seem tough on crime but easy on the wallet. For one thing, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 13, 2014 appearance in front of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to push the change to the sentencing guidelines will only apply to federal penitentiaries. There are 213,901 inmates in federal correctional facilities as of Oct. 16th, 2014. There are ten times that many prisoners (2 million) in state-run facilities.
Our prison industrial complex is a disgrace. “Although the United States comprises just five percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners,” Holder said to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Dr. Cornel West and author Michelle Alexander call mass incarceration The New Jim Crow in their book by the same name.
An anonymous comment made in response to Caitlin Seandel’s blog post called “Prison Labor” Three Strikes and You’re Hired, explains the problem of sentencing:
“Incarceration is a function of 4 things (number of arrests, number of convictions, sentence length, recidivism). The current trend is to arrest many, convict some, extraordinary long sentencing with option of parole. The generous offer of parole is negated by high recidivism. The police is (sic) responsible for first introduction to criminal justice system, but also the main amplifier of recidivism. Recidivism always begins with the 2nd arrest. Public prosecutors overcharge, causing construction of inappropriately high bond as misdemeanors become felonies in this unethical practice. The trumped up charges leads to a necessity to plea guilty to lesser charges but waiving the right to trial and a jury. Since so few convicts go through a jury it gives free hands for public prosecutors and judges to ‘do as they please’ without supervision and the involvement of the public eye. The jury would be the ultimate supervision and the moderator of the public prosecutor and the judge. Due to prosecutions overcharging and plea deals this part of the oversight disappears. I would say shame on you all. What can be done? Defense lawyers should lower their fees to help more people get saved from being wrecked by the current system. People selected for jury should attend without hesitation, to make the system work once again. There should be statistical oversight of plea deals vs jury trials percentage. A 50-50 proportion would serve better than a 90-10 (plea vs jury) in terms of keeping the DA and judge under public supervision oversight and moderation. In a system that has got out of control, the citizens appointed to jury duty and the defense lawyers will be the only parties that can actively claim it by back by lawfully allowed means.”