Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Reform

I believe it's time for a major overhaul of our criminal justice system. If we're not careful sometime in the not so distant future we could become a nation of felons.

There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker told the Wall Street Journal in July 2011.

As crazy as it sounds there are about 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books carrying fines or prison terms for offenders.

The loss of any constitutional rights due to a felony conviction should end at the completion of sentencing and or probation/parole. All citizens are equal, there are no constitutional provisions for second class citizenship. We need to reduce the current rate of recidivism.

If this was a proposed bill, what would be the effect as projected by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office)?

I believe crime and incarceration would go down while employment went up, in turn making our deficit go down.

Do we want encourage a way back or a way forward? It makes far better sense economically to help previous offenders to become law-abiding and tax paying citizens than for society to warehouse and feed them year after year.

Lets not forget people make mistakes, its up to us to move forward once their price has been paid. Its good for them and its good for our country.

Fraud or Justice?

There is a great injustice today in our nations criminal justice system. So much so, that it borders on the line of fraud.

This injustice has found its way into plea bargains made under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Under Rule 11, there are two plea agreement choices; one which is binding on the court (c) the other which is not (b). A disclaimer is generally made to the defendant under the (b) type of agreement there is no disclosure of the other type of (c) plea agreement. In my opinion, if a defendant had knowledge of both, he/she would never choose the (b) agreement.

Is this a deliberate fraud designed by congress to expedite the judicial process? What purpose did the Congressional members have when they passed (b), if they already had (c)? Fraud is the intentional deception by another made for monitory or personal gain. How many defendants were subject to a (b) type plea agreement? Did they get what they bargained for? Were they defrauded? If so, should those convictions stand?

Let’s talk about prison reform…….

There are about 20 million felons in the United States, of which more than 13 million have the right to vote. Instead of demonizing them, let’s give them the opportunity to become productive members of society and thereby reduce the rate of recidivism. That rate is currently over 67% according to the National Institute of Justice. The cost to the States is over 52 billion dollars a year, the second fastest growing budget item after Medicaid

(New York Times 4/11).

Our country has more people in prison than any other in the world. Currently at about 2 million which are mostly held in state and local facilities, while another 200,000 are held in federal custody.

We need sentencing reform, especially for non-violent offenders. About 50% of all prisoners held in federal custody are there on drug related offenses. The average cost of incarceration for federal inmates is over $80 a day. Many mandatory sentences call for 20 years or more, which cause a huge financial burden on the taxpayers. We need to look at reducing long term sentences and use the savings for better education or just reducing the deficit, etc.

The word “felon” or “have you ever been convicted” should be struck from all employment applications as it is prejudicial often resulting in an automatic rejection for anyone answering “yes”. If at all it should be replaced with: are you currently on probation or parole.