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A new report by FAMM and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) emphasizes the importance of judicial discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders, and argues that sentencing reform can help ease prison overcrowding, save tax dollars, and protect public safety. The new report, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform Saves States Money and Reduces Crime Rates, argues that inflexible sentencing laws jeopardize public safety, and recommends states adopt “safety valves,” which allow sentencing courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentences.

Over the last three decades, state incarcerations rates have increased considerably, totaling 1,350,958 prisoners by the end of 2014. State corrections budgets have swelled while prison populations considered to increase. States began to study the problem and implemented evidence-based and cost-effective sentencing reforms. The report draws from the successes of states that have had implemented safety valves and seen reductions in crime, cost, and incarceration rates.

Several leading conservatives endorsed the report, which was released today. See what they have to say: 

“State lawmakers shouldn’t waste tax dollars on things that don¹t work. Experience has taught us that simply locking up low level offenders for decades is not the best way to reduce crime. By passing reforms such as the safety valve, states can focus their resources on programs that actually reduce recidivism and reduce crime. ALEC and FAMM have a good idea here.”
– Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

“This is an important and timely report that shows the many benefits of being smart on crime and soft on taxpayers. It demonstrates that states do not need one-size-fits-all, mandatory prison sentences to enhance and protect public safety. ALEC’s model safety valve and other mandatory minimum reforms have enabled states to reduce both crime and prison spending. This makes communities safer, frees resources for other purposes such as education, and provides worthy individuals with a second chance at a productive life.”
– Mark Holden, General Counsel, Koch Industries

“As one of the most conservative members of the Maryland Senate, I saw the potential of the Justice Safety Valve Act to save tax dollars and protect public safety. I led the effort to restore sentencing discretion for nonviolent drug offenders, and I’m happy to say that reform is now law. I encourage other states to pursue sentencing safety valves to rein in potential excesses of mandatory minimums.”
– Maryland Senator Michael Hough, Senior Policy Advisor at Faith and Freedom Coalition

“Mandatory minimum sentencing, while well-intentioned, has clearly had several unintended consequences that have led to great dysfunction in our criminal justice system. This thoughtful report from FAMM and ALEC explains the problem clearly and offers an interesting solution.”
– Vikrant P. Reddy, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Koch Institute

“Conservatives states like Texas and Georgia have shown that public safety can be improved through sentencing reforms that address drug abuse and low-level drug offenses committed by first-time, non-violent offenders differently. Drug treatment and rehabilitation for these offenders, rather than lengthy sentences in violent prisons, could end the cycle of crime before it starts. Politicians who oppose criminal justice reforms – such as safety valves and rehabilitative programming – are contributing to a cycle of crime and poverty which destroys families, plagues communities without political power, and creates a costly burden for taxpayers.”
– Jason Pye, Director of Communications and Director of Justice Reform, FreedomWorks

“Safety valve laws are smart, just, and fiscally responsible. They deserve expansion and this report from ALEC and FAMM points the way towards real, meaningful reforms.”
– Eli Lehrer, President, R Street Institute

“The Justice Safety Valve Act is an extremely promising solution to the persistent and troubling problem of runaway incarceration rates. By allowing judges the flexibility to employ discretion in the sentencing of some non-violent offenders, states can avoid some of the dubious financial–and ethical–costs associated with a one-size-fits-all sentencing regime. The Justice Safety Valve Act is a serious policy proposal worthy of the consideration of fiscally responsible state policymakers.”
– Joe Coon, Vice President, Niskanen Center

“This report underscores the most important aspect of criminal justice policy: public safety.  By removing judicial discretion, we are committing valuable prison space to low-risk offenders while otherwise-high-risk offenders are serving little to no time behind bars.  Safety valves are an important tool for ensuring that this space is used for those who pose the greatest threat to our communities.”
– Derek Cohen, Deputy Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation


To read the report, click here. To learn more about FAMM’s work with ALEC, click here.