Criminal Justice Reform Posts

New BOP Chief Kathleen Hawk Sawyer: Prison or Rehabilitation?

New Bureau of Prisons Leadership Should Focus on Rehabilitation: (“Over the past decade and a half, many of our state criminal justice systems have abandoned unnecessarily punitive and ineffective practices and instead refocused on rehabilitation and preparing inmates for a successful return to society. Now is the time for the federal system to do the same. * * * Attorney General William Barr’s appointment of Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the new director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons offers an opportunity to enact change at the federal level. For this to happen, Sawyer will need to show the same commitment, foresight, and drive she demonstrated when she previously held the role. * * * In 2001, when there was strong bipartisan support for so-called ‘tough-on-crime’ policies, Sawyer pushed back and said, ’70-some percent of our female population are low-level, nonviolent offenders.’ Sawyer went on to say that ‘[the fact that these women] have even come into prison is a question mark for me. I think it has been an unintended consequence of the sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums.’ She concluded by saying that many of the incarcerated women in question should have received probation instead.”)

Criminal Justice Crisis? Blame Prosecutors.

Prosecutors Are Mainly to Blame for the Criminal Justice Crisis: (“In a speech last week at the National Biennial Conference of the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, Attorney General William Barr lamented the emergence of ‘anti-law enforcement DAs’ who ‘refus[e] to enforce broad swathes of the criminal law.’ Barr cited, in particular, their refusal ‘to prosecute cases of resisting police,’ which Barrs sees as symptomatic of an ‘anti-police narrative [that] is fanning disrespect for the law.’ * * * Barr’s speech paints a grim picture of ‘predators in our society.’ He says that ‘violence, lawlessness, and predation lie just below the surface,’ but it’s worth asking who is really responsible for this predation. * * * If Barr is genuinely worried about respect for the rule of law, he ought indeed to turn his attention to prosecutors, but not the reform-minded prosecutors he damns. Insulated from accountability and empowered with extraordinarily broad discretion, prosecutors are among the greatest dangers to the rule of law and the most socially destructive forces in American life today. * * * If American defendants are innocent until proven guilty as a matter of law, they are nonetheless too often treated as guilty until proven innocent as a matter of fact. Likewise, if the American system is an adversarial jury system in theory, it is in fact a mere ‘administrative process [that] operates within the shell of the due process model’— a process in which prosecutors wield tremendous power and discretion.”)


First Step Act Frees Over 3,000 Federal Inmates

Inmates Freed as Justice Department Tries to Clear Hurdles of New Law: (“More than 3,000 inmates were freed from federal prison on Friday as part of the Justice Department’s implementation of the sweeping bipartisan criminal justice overhaul that President Trump signed into law late last year. * * * The department has faced sharp criticism over its execution of the act. The partial government shutdown in January stymied progress on its implementation, which was further overshadowed by a debate over when the bill authorized the release of thousands of prisoners. * * * Advocates have expressed worries that the department would slow-walk implementation because former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others within the department who stayed on after he was fired had fiercely opposed the law. * * * The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, sought to tamp down those concerns at a news conference on Friday to announce that the department had met the deadline for the prison releases, as well as other milestones of the law, called the First Step Act.”)

The FIRST STEP Act Explained

What’s Really in the First Step Act? (“Hailed by supporters as a pivotal moment in the movement to create a more fair justice system, endorsed by an unlikely alliance that includes President Donald Trump and the American Civil Liberties Union, the First Step Act is a bundle of compromises. As it makes its way through Congress it faces resistance from some Republicans who regard it as a menace to public safety and from some Democrats who view it as more cosmetic than consequential. * * * What would the bill actually do? The Marshall Project took a close look.”)

Prison Reform Bill: Good Initial Step or Cop Out?

Just How Much of an Overhaul is This Overhaul of the Nation’s Criminal Justice System? (“Some of those seeking to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system want to cut the prison population by more than a million inmates. An agreement in Washington this week, hailed as a landmark bipartisan moment, falls well short of that: about 7,000 people might get out early.”)

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