Half a Billion Saved, at No Cost to Public Safety

Post Date: July 31, 2013

The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s latest Preliminary Crack Retroactivity Data report has some facts and figures that should wow us all:  more than 7,200 federal prisoners got sentence reductions based on the Commission’s changes to crack cocaine sentencing guidelines in 2011.  The average sentence reduction:  29 months.  The average annual cost of locking up a federal prisoner:  about $28,000.

What taxpayers saved because of better justice:  half a billion dollars.

That’s billion with a “B.”  As in, b-b-b-billion.  Yowza!

And what did giving fairer, Congress-approved crack sentences do to public safety?  Nada.  Violent crime kept on dropping.  The rate of reoffending by a beneficiary of the retroactive crack guidelines?  About the same as everybody else.

There were a few who threatened the end of public safety as we knew it if crack cocaine sentencing changes were made retroactive.  Their threats haven’t panned out.

America, we’re doing fine on crime, even with sentencing reforms — in fact, we’re doing better on crime because of sentencing reforms.  This is what smart reform is all about:  sentencing reform can save us money and keep us safe — and actually make us safer, because we’re reserving our prison dollars and resources for the most dangerous offenders.

Enjoy that extra half a billion, America.  You’re gonna need it.