Has the Time for Federal Criminal Justice Reform Come and Gone?

Has the Time for Federal Criminal Justice Reform Come and Gone?

June 7th, 2018 by McNeely | Stephenson

It seems like it was only yesterday that the federal criminal justice system started inching toward a better path, away from filling countless prisons with people convicted of non-violent crimes. But the momentum seems to have slowed, and many reformers are wondering if there’s still hope on the horizon for meaningful changes.

It looks as if we are failing to heed Albert Einstein’s warning that “[i]nsanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.”

However, we aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat the past. It’s worth taking the time to consider why the conversation over criminal justice is just as relevant as it’s ever been.

Many Advocates are Fighting the Good Fight…

Criminal justice reform is truly a bipartisan effort. For years, the talking point has been that advocates of a fairer system include everyone from prominent conservatives like Charles and David Koch to left-leaning institutions like the American Civil Liberties Union, all of whom believe that significant reforms are needed. But it is really more than just a talking point, as people from across the political spectrum are still pushing for change.

For example, in early 2018, there was bipartisan agreement on a bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. While there still hasn’t been enough momentum to bring reforms to practice, it’s clear that many lawmakers still have an appetite for progress.

Problems Still Persist…

The problems with our criminal justice system haven’t changed. The United States has a very large population of incarcerated people who will face a number of challenges in finding employment, housing and educational opportunities. Taxpayers still spend a staggering amount of money on jails and prisons. For example, according to the Washington Post in a story about a Department of Education report, “Since 1990, state and local spending on prisons and jails has risen more than three times faster than spending on schools….”

It’s not just lawmakers and reform advocates who are concerned about the problems we’re facing. A poll of registered voters conducted earlier this year found that 76 percent wanted criminal justice reform.

While the prescriptions for fixing the problem vary, the diagnosis is widely shared: The United States still needs major changes to its justice system. Reducing recidivism rates and mandatory minimums are things that a wide range of people support, and it would be a great place to start.

Many Americans understand that incarcerating limitless numbers of people in jails and prisons is a waste of lives and money. There are still plenty of people who believe that continuing to fill America’s jails with the world’s largest prison population of 2.2 million (the next largest is China at about 1.6 million, though that country’s population is more than four times that of the U.S.) is . . . insanity.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

McNeely Stephenson has faithfully served the people and communities of Indiana for several years in a variety of criminal defense cases and will help you create a strategy that gives you the chance for the best possible outcome. With offices in New Albany and attorneys who are licensed to serve the Kentuckiana area, we have the knowledge, experience and resources to help. To ask a question or to set up a consultation, contact us today.