Washington may be stuck in the 90s, but states are leading the way on smart justice reforms. Dozens of states have implemented – and many more are in the process of implementing – smart on crime policies that are making communities safer and reducing costs to the taxpayers. Between 2010 and 2015, over 31 states were able to cut both crime and incarceration. Further, we know that the ten states with the largest decreases in their use of prisons saw crime drop more (-14%) than those ten states with the largest increases in imprisonment (-8%).
You can learn more about how states are leading reform efforts nationwide in the following video:
Read more on how our “laboratories of democracy” are lapping the feds, and how state leaders are responding to the federal memo on charging policy:
Atlanta Journal Constitution (GA): Federal sentencing rollback veers away from path Georgia has taken
“I know that you cannot translate all of that from the state level to the federal level,” [Governor Nathan Deal] said after a press conference in Savannah. “But if they follow that general model and learn from our experiences, the taxpayers of this country will be well served.”
Conservative states across the South have been at the forefront of revamped criminal justice policies…In Georgia, Deal put his initiative at the center of his first term. His first criminal justice package allowed Georgia to push more nonviolent offenders toward alternative programs and away from expensive prison stays. Judges also got more discretion to depart from mandatory sentences…He has also poured more state resources into rehabilitation programs to reduce the state’s recidivism rate — the proportion of inmates convicted again within three years.
Associated Press (KY): Appalachia’s approach to drugs at odds with Sessions policy
In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders… “In terms of the drug problem, my philosophy was pretty simple: For people who were addicts, that’s an illness, and addicts needed treatment beds, and professional drug dealers needed prison beds,” [Former Kentucky U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey], said.
Tyler Morning Telegraph (TX): Editorial: Mandatory minimums are still a bad idea
It sounds as if Sessions wants the government to get tough on crime. And that’s good, as far as it goes. But mandatory minimums are well-intentioned – yet ultimately misguided – efforts by legislators to crack down on crime.
First, one size never fits all. Passing mandatory minimum legislation makes for good politics, but not good policy. Every criminal case is different, and judges should have the power to tailor their rulings to each specific case and each specific defendant. We must not bind the judges’ hands with mandatory minimums or a three-strikes rule.
Next, conservatives believe in local control and accountability – and these are best served by eliminating mandatory minimums. This is particularly true in Texas, where our judges are elected (not appointed). If we don’t like the sentences they hand down, we can let them know directly – at the ballot box.
Charleston Gazette (WV): Editorial: Same old ‘War on Drugs,’ same old failure
His remarks could be construed as a slap at thousands of West Virginians who were prescribed painkillers for injuries and ailments, then became hooked on the highly addictive medications and turned to cheaper heroin — giving the Mountain State the nation’s worst overdose rate. Sessions barely mentioned pharmaceutical manufacturers who reap colossal profits from addiction.
Decatur Daily (AL): Editorial: Sessions turning back sentencing reform
Sessions says a tougher approach is needed because of the recent spike in violence in some big cities and the nation’s opioid epidemic, but exactly the opposite is true. Addicts need treatment, not prison, and getting tough on drugs has led drug dealers to create ever more potent drugs every single time it had been tried. Whether the intentions are good or not, the outcome remains the same.
The Times Tribune (PA): Editorial: Sessions plan big step back
Because the national opioid addiction crisis cuts across the socioeconomic spectrum, it has forced a new government approach. Rather than approaching it as purely a law enforcement matter, federal, state and local governments gradually have come to view it as a public health crisis… All of that, in turn, has contributed to a renewed focus on diminishing the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, which also is driven by its huge costs and adverse effects on families and mostly minority communities. The result has been a smaller prison population, alternative sentencing and innovative solutions that seek to help, rather than simply punish, addicts, such as the drug court in Lackawanna County.