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February 2011
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Smart on Crime

The Smart on Crime Coalition “is comprised of more than 40 organizations and individuals, who participated in developing policy recommendations across 16 broad issue areas. These organizations and individuals represent the leading voices in criminal justice policy.”

Well, this group has just released a report of recommendations for the Administration and Congress, and I like what I’m seeing.

The Summary of Recommendations has some wonderful suggestions. Of course, I’d go further in some areas, but getting any of this agenda passed would be a good thing.

Here are a few selected recommendations…

Adopt rules and reporting requirements to stem overcriminalization and overfederalization. Congress should amend their rules to require every bill that would add or modify criminal offenses or penalties to be subject to automatic referral to the judiciary committee. Congress should also enact mandatory reporting legislation for all new or modified criminal offenses and penalties requiring the federal government to produce a standard, public report assessing the purported justification, costs, and benefits of all new or modified criminalization. […]

Curb the abuses of federal and state forfeiture powers. Congress should pass comprehensive legislation to curb abuses of federal and state forfeiture powers and fulfill the original intent of the bipartisan Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act and related state reforms. The Administration should issue an executive order or encourage agency rulemaking to limit or forbid the use of equitable sharing to circumvent state law.

Safeguard the rights of defendants and third parties with basic procedural reforms. Congress should pass comprehensive legislation to ensure fair procedures for the accused and third parties in criminal forfeiture proceedings, and to curtail the government’s use of criminal forfeiture as an end run around civil asset forfeiture reforms. This would include safeguarding the accused’s rights to a fair procedure for determining what is subject to criminal forfeiture, limiting the use of so-called personal “money judgments” in lieu of orders forfeiting specific property, and safeguarding the rights of third parties who have an interest in the property subject to forfeiture. […]

Support the mandatory recordation of custodial interrogations. Congress should pass legislation requiring federal law enforcement agencies to electronically record all custodial interrogations. Such legislation would allow the court to render inadmissible any unrecorded statement or confession. Alternatively, the President should issue an executive order to require the electronic recordation of all custodial interrogations. […]

Regulate the use of incentivized testimony. Congress should pass legislation that would regulate the use of incentivized informants by adopting best practices and policies designed to address the issues of reliability related to incentivized testimony. Alternatively, the President should issue an executive order that outlines best practices and policies for use of incentivized information by federal prosecutors and investigators. […]

Enhance the role of federal grand jurors and address the institution’s long-neglected shortcomings. Congress should pass comprehensive legislation to strengthen the grand jury’s screening function, empower grand jurors, and protect the rights of witnesses, subjects, and targets of grand jury investigations. The Department of Justice’s United States Attorney’s Manual includes certain admonitions regarding the conduct of grand jury investigations; the Department and its personal should adhere to the manual’s proscriptions. […]

Ensure adequate funding, staffing, and training for state indigent defense systems. Congress should address the funding disparity that cripples the provision of indigent defense, by fully funding existing programs like the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Act, encouraging states to use existing federal grants to support all components of the criminal justice system including indigent defense, and encouraging states to adopt civil infraction reform, which would relieve some of the current burden placed on indigent defenders. The Department of Justice could use current grant programs to increase indigent defense training and technical assistance for states. […]

Completely eliminate the crack cocaine sentencing disparity and make reform retroactive. Congress should pursue complete elimination of the crack cocaine sentencing disparity, which was reduced from 100:1 to 18:1 as the result of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. In addition, the Fair Sentencing Act must be strengthened by retroactive application of its provisions through executive, legislative or judicial branch action, so that those incarcerated pursuant to the previous sentencing scheme receive relief.

Improve and expand federal safety valves for mandatory minimum sentencing. Congress should amend the current safety valve laws to allow judges to undertake a step-by-step inquiry into such things as the circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the offender in order to provide appropriate sentences.

Create sunset provisions for new mandatory minimums. Congress should subject all new mandatory minimums to a five-year sunset provision or create a sunset commission that will offer recommendations to Congress ahead of reauthorization of mandatory minimum legislation. […]

Expand alternatives to incarceration in federal sentencing guidelines. The United States Sentencing Commission should amend the Sentencing Guidelines to broadly expand the availability of alternatives to incarceration. In particular, the Commission should expand the use of alternative sentences for offenders whose crimes are associated with substance abuse or mental illness and who pose no substantial threat to the community. […]

Permit sentence reductions for extraordinary and compelling circumstances. The Attorney General should signal his intention that the Sentencing Reform Act be used as Congress originally intended by providing a guidance memo laying out support for use of the power to reduce a sentence for extraordinary and compelling circumstances. Congress should also extend and expand elderly prisoner home confinement release programs to address the rising cost of confining elderly prisoners who no longer pose public safety risks. […]

Reduce all drug guidelines indexed to mandatory minimums by two levels. The United States Sentencing Commission should reduce all drug guideline range triggers by two levels so that the corresponding mandatory minimum is at the top of the range for any given drug, not below it. This will ensure that the guideline ranges correspond with the mandatory minimums while providing additional flexibility to judges in cases where the mandatory minimum is not applicable. […]

Make granting clemency a strategic priority for the White House. The Administration should develop a strategic plan for the use of the pardon power to advance the president’s criminal justice agenda, both within the executive branch and outside of the executive branch, and with the public. It should identify the functions of clemency in the federal justice system, both to reduce prison sentences and to recognize and reward rehabilitation, and consider whether charges in the law may be in order to reduce the need for clemency. It should make public standards to guide those who wish to apply for clemency and those who are responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on clemency applications. […]

Create a National Criminal Justice Commission. Congress should authorize and fund a National Criminal Justice Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system by a bipartisan panel of experts that would make thoughtful, evidence-based recommendations for reform. Absent congressional action, the President should establish an independent National Criminal Justice Commission by executive order or other administrative process.

Pass and implement the Justice Reinvestment Act. Congress should pass legislation to provide states with resources to develop and to implement data-driven, cost-saving corrections policies. This will help states increase public safety while cutting prison costs and reinvesting the savings into alternatives to incarceration, such as community corrections and programs proven to reduce recidivism.

Evaluate and limit racial and ethnic disparities. Congress should pass legislation similar to the Justice Integrity Act to establish pilot programs to evaluate issues of racial and ethnic fairness in the practices of U.S. Attorney offices. Congress should mandate “Racial Impact Statements” for any proposed sentencing legislation to enable Congress to evaluate potential racial or ethnic disparities, and to consider alternative policies that could accomplish the goals of proposed sentencing legislation without causing racial disparity. Congress should also pass legislation similar to the Byrne/JAG Program Accountability Act to assess and limit racial and ethnic disparity in state, local and tribal systems that receive federal funding through the Byrne JAG Grant Program.

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17 comments to Smart on Crime

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Holden Gutierrez, MS. MS said: Smart on Crime http://bit.ly/fTcSwW — Keeping Watch […]

  • Dante

    Here’s one:

    Stop shooting unarmed family pets as they run away.

  • This is not my America

    How bout this one. Stop using policies that are written in a manner that never allows debate or dissent or are never allowed practical application of common sense/truth or sciences.

    These type of policies are an afront to the intelligence of the people.

    Smart on crime means to me that you use intelligence and truth , not greed and power for gain for the few.

  • malcolm kyle

    Stop being a bunch of traitorous fascist scum!

  • Duncan20903

    Possession with intent to manufacture marijuana:
    .

    Police reported Thompson had….a vitamin bottle filled with 22.8 grams (.80 ounce) of marijuana seeds.

    http://www.salisburypost.com/Crime/021411-WEB-Cops-Woman-caught-with-hash-qcd

    I need directions to the nearest bell tower please.

    • Duncan20903

      Oh rats, I thought the above was posted to the open thread, my apologies.

      On the other hand this is a dictionary picture example of being dumb on crime.

  • kaptinemo

    Everything but the one that would make the vast majority of their proposals automatically obsolete:

    Elimination of drug prohibition as a Federal policy and remand any ‘drug control policy’ back to the States, where it once was and rightfully belongs. Everything else is just windows dressing, save the release and ‘rehabilitation’ of DrugWar PoWs and remuneration for their Constitutionally-unlawful incarceration.

  • claygooding

    How about making it illegal for any government agency to lie to the American people,since it is supposed to be a government of the people,for the people,by the people.
    Why would we need an agency of that government providing false science,skewed statistics and outright lies.

    • Duncan20903

      How about making it illegal for anyone in the government to bread the law? Can they just rescind the current immunity?

      • Duncan20903

        .
        .
        breaded law? Is that anything like battered fish sticks? People rightly worry about battered women, but what about the fish sticks? Doesn’t anyone care about them?

        should read “break the law” of course.

  • Maria

    Ok, casting aside our visions of perfection 😉 on a whole, the recommendations are outstanding. The full report appears well reasoned (it’s 300+ pages, so I’m not even close to finishing it) but it seems like it’s well researched. These aren’t “fringe” groups making these recommendations out of thin air.

    Seems like a great tool to break out of your arsenal when debating with someone who throws out the tired old “Ok, things are unfair, but how do we change it? It’s un-possible! Think of the uncertainties!” No it’s not impossible, there are rational, intelligent and practical steps that can be taken to reform our criminal justice system, starting with these.

    Sadly, I’ll be surprised if even some of them get due consideration.

  • This is not my America

    Sadly, I’ll be surprised if even some of them get due consideration.

    Nope, I hold no hopes of it happening. Its all good talk to pacsify. It seems to me everything government does is just pacification of the masses. I mean look at the proposed ‘budget cuts’ for one. It looks good to the propagandized masses but, does nothing to actually stop the finacial bleeding of this nation. They make cuts in places that should be cut last instead of trashing whole government agencies that need trashed. Oh I know , its tied to pay checks and power/control.

    No, look for true massive cuts when the shit really hits the fan folks….and it’ll be the people doing the cuts on them…not these ‘entitlement’ folks and power grabbers.

    So, remain pacified and calm…all is good, all is under control….sleep ,sleep, sleep….

  • kaptinemo

    OT: from the “You can’t make this sh*t up” Department.

    Once more, a narco-submarine is found in Colombia.

    With all the money involved, this is just a drop in the bucket. With so much dirty money flowing in an underground river around the world, in and out of multinational banks like an ocean current, you have to wonder if this is just the cast-off prototype and if there’s even better ones out there…

  • malcolm kyle

    Then that means we’ll be needing a great article about life on board an ol’ drug sub:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,732292,00.html

  • claygooding

    At last Malcolm,,,,or maybe a sitcom with a sub and 2000
    kilos on a tropical island,,,,waiting for the women or bankers to find him.

  • malcolm kyle

    Let’s hope, for their sakes that the women find them first Clay!

    .

    “… Decide on a setting. Sitcoms thrive in everyday places. Your characters will need a central setting, like a school or a drug sub, where they interact –and preferably, one that can be easily built from the “prohibition engendered” proceeds of organized crime ..”

    Read more: How to Write a Sitcom By an eHow Contributor

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    Speaking of U-boats it seems that the deficit to GDP ratio is the highest since 1945. The reason that ended up being such a non-event is because we carpet bombed the industrial infrastructure in a significant percentage of Europe and Asia. So without competition GDP exploded because of the extra export volume. We really need to bomb the heck out of Red China or our goose may be cooked.