Report: Minimums A Major Cause of Prison Growth

Post Date: January 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) says that the increasing use of mandatory minimum sentences and other policy changes adopted over the past 30 years have contributed to an unprecedented and unsustainable growth in the federal prison population. The report, titled, “The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Overview, Policy Changes, Issues, and Options” was released on January 22, 2013.

“The report makes very clear that Congress has two options: either spend billions of dollars we don’t have to keep locking up nonviolent offenders or pass some common-sense reforms that will actually save us money and make us safer by reducing recidivism,” said Julie Stewart, FAMM’s president and founder. “Number one on CRS’s list of policy recommendations Congress should consider is modifying mandatory minimum sentences.”

In its report, CRS lists six reforms Congress should consider to reduce overcrowded federal prisons. They are:

(1) modifying mandatory minimum penalties;
(2) expanding the use of halfway houses;
(3) placing more offenders on probation;
(4) reinstating parole for federal inmates;
(5) expanding the amount of good time credit an inmate can earn, and 
(6) repealing federal criminal statutes for some offenses.

While reinstating parole for federal inmates does not enjoy meaningful political support on Capitol Hill, all of the other ideas have been endorsed to varying degrees, including, for example, introduction of legislation to repeal mandatory minimums, efforts to rein in overfederalization in criminal law, and proposals to increase good time crime for prisoners.

“FAMM supports many of these ideas and believes that any plan to seriously address our prison overcrowding crisis must include front-end sentencing reforms. We look forward to working with Congress to put those reforms in place,” Stewart said.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, fights for fair and proportionate federal and state sentencing laws that embrace judicial discretion while guarding public safety.  Please visit us at www.famm.org.

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