ALEC: A Safety Valve for Overcrowded Prisons

Post Date: September 27, 2013

(Washington Times op-ed by Cara Sullivan, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)) — The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Sept. 18 to examine the efficacy of mandatory-minimum sentences and to discuss “safety-valve” policies that would increase judicial discretion, maximize the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and increase safety among the nation’s communities.

Policymakers are correct to be concerned about the status of America’s criminal justice system. At the federal level, there has been a 700 percent increase in the number of federal prisoners over the past 30 years, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons is operating at levels nearly 40 percent over capacity. However, as federal incarceration rates climb, state rates have been declining as many states examine evidence-based and data-driven reforms to their criminal justice systems. States are leading the way in criminal justice reform, and the federal government should take notice.

Both levels of government can protect our communities through crafting policies that focus limited resources on dangerous criminals by allowing judges to depart from mandatory-minimum sentences in certain cases of nonviolent offenders. These policies not only strengthen public safety and help balance budgets, but they also help rebuild lives. Read more