Some States are Beginning to Change Their Approach to Incarceration……
Attorney General Eric Holder recently praised states and local law enforcement agencies that are instituting some of the changes he has suggest on the issue of mandatory minimum sentences at the federal level. The attorney general said recently that 17 states have directed money away from prison construction and toward programs and services such as treatment and supervision that are designed to reduce the problem of repeat offenders. In New Orleans, Orleans Parish Sherriff Marlin N. Gusman has instituted what appears to be a very effective reentry program to deal with the problem of recidivisms among individuals who have served a prison term and are preparing to reenter society.
According to Mr. Holder: “By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime ‘hot spots,’ and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency and fairness — we can become both smarter and tougher on crime,”
In Kentucky, legislation has reserved prison beds for the most serious offenders and refocused resources on community supervision. The state, Holder said, is projected to reduce its prison population by more than 3,000 over the next 10 years, saving more than $400 million.
I have sent a great many years defending the accused in many states in the Union, I am therefore gratified to see that major changes are coming to the way we handle incarceration of the accused. Maybe, just maybe, we are beginning to understand, as a nation, that there are alternatives to locking up a person and throwing away the key. General Holder cited investments in drug treatment in Texas for non-violent offenders and changes to parole policies which he said brought about a reduction in the prison population of more than 5,000 inmates last year. He said similar efforts helped Arkansas reduce its prison population by more than 1,400. He also pointed to Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Hawaii as states that have improved public safety while preserving limited resources.
Everything the Attorney General has recently said on the issue of sentences and how we are treating small time offenders is gratifying. But what has pleased me the most is what Holder has said concerning compassionate release. Apparently the department is expanding a policy for considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances, when those individuals pose no threat to the public. Holder said that the policy expansion will specially include elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences.
I think this is great news and something that will be most beneficial to families across the Nation.
I am Attorney Martin E. Regan, Jr. and these are my personal thoughts……