Beyond the Beltway with Bruce Dumont

Over the weekend, Marc Levin of Right Crime appeared on the nationally-syndicated radio program, Beyond the Beltway, hosted by Bruce DuMont. Levin was not only interviewed, he also took questions from callers. Click here for video of Levin’s appearance.

Click below for audio:

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Discussing Right On Crime with the Heartland Institute

Last week, I recorded a podcast with Steve Stanek of the Heartland Institute to discuss Right On Crime. Stanek mentioned a recent Chicago Tribune article he had read which indicated that in the 1960s, the Illinois Criminal Code was only 72 pages long — but is now about 1,300 pages long. We discussed this expansion in the criminal law — and the larger phenomenon of dramatic prison growth — before talking about a few possible solutions to the problem. You can listen to the full interview by clicking below:

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State Prison Populations Decline for Third Straight Year

According to statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, state prisons across the United States continued a three-year decline in the number of prisoners in 2011.

The number of state prisoners fell from 1,314,446, to 1,289,376. This represents a 1.9 percent drop in state prisoners. This decline was sufficient to offset the increase in federal prisoners to create an overall drop in the number of all prisoners of 1.3 percent.

The entire correctional population (state and federal prisoners, jail inmates, parolees, and probationers) dropped 1.4 percent between 2010 and 2011. This is the third consecutive year of decreasing correctional populations.

In 2011, 2.9 percent of adults were under some form of correctional supervision, or about 1 in 34, the lowest rate since 1998.

Earlier this year, data revealed that violent crime dropped 3.8 percent between 2010 and 2011, down 15.5 percent since 2002, while property crime dropped 0.5 percent, down 19.9 percent since 2002.

Even as fewer prisoners are behind bars, streets across America are safer every single day. While no amount of crime is acceptable, this decline in both incarceration rates and crime rates is due in some measure to the smart-on-crime policies and conservative criminal justice reforms enacted in an ever-growing number of states.

By putting dangerous, violent offenders behind bars, and appropriately rehabilitating and supervising non-violent and low-risk offenders, state prisons can more efficiently keep citizens safe, while easing budgetary pressures on state governments. And a focus on targeting the root causes of crime by moving away from one-size-fits-all criminal justice policies can work to keep crime rates falling.


At the Heritage Foundation: “Clemency: Old Problems, New Solutions”

On Monday, December 10th, the Constitution Project, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are hosting a panel discussion titled “Clemency: Old Problems, New Solutions.” The event will take place from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM in the Lehrman Auditorium at the Heritage Foundation:

214 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington DC 20002-4999

The Heritage Foundation introduces the event on its website as follows:

“Clemency, Alexander Hamilton said, ‘is an act of grace and humanity.’ While President Obama has, at least so far, granted clemency only 22 times, other presidents, both Democrat and Republican, have been far more generous. President George W. Bush, for example, pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 200 people, and President Bill Clinton did the same for 459 people. President Jimmy Carter granted clemency 566 times during his one term in office, although that is far from the record, a distinction which belongs to President Franklin Roosevelt who granted clemency 3,687 times. The Christmas season, a traditional time for presidential forgiveness, is a good time to re-examine how well the clemency process is working.

‘Join us for a discussion with a distinguished panel of bipartisan experts who will explore whether and how the clemency process has deviated from its proper, traditional function. Our panelists will also consider how to make pardons, as Chief Justice John Marshall said, ‘an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.’”

The panel assembled for the event is impressive:

Albert Alschuler, Julius Kreeger Professor Emeritus of Law and Criminology, Northwestern University Law

Gregory Craig, Former White House Counsel for President Barack Obama and Special Counsel for President Bill Clinton

The Honorable Robert “Bob” Ehrlich, Jr., 60th Governor of Maryland and Senior Counsel, King & Spalding LLP

Margaret Love, Former U.S. Pardon Attorney, and Practicing Attorney, Law Offices of Margaret Love

The Heritage Foundation’s Paul Rosenzweig will host the panel discussion.


Justice System Reinvestment Pays Additional Dividends

When criminal justice systems reduce prison populations and reinvest a portion of the savings in evidence-based methods of reducing crime, not only are taxpayer dollars saved, but more efficient and effective programs can be fiscally prioritized.

For example, Kentucky is using a portion of the savings from reduced prison populations to fund drug treatment beds that aim to get more Kentucky offenders off drugs—for good. Recent data showed Kentucky policymakers that drug treatment can cut recidivism among otherwise addicted inmates by one-third, and the Kentucky Legislature jumped at the chance to save money and reduce crime in their state.

In Hawaii, crime victims will receive additional attention as some of the justice reinvestment savings are used to fund victim counselors and their support staff. This will permit their victims’ outreach efforts to expand from violent crime victims to violent and property crime victims, and for longer periods of time. Putting the focus on victims in this way not only makes the criminal justice system more responsive to community needs, but also what is necessary to make the harmed party whole after the criminal act.


The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s 2013 Legislative Preview

On Friday, December 7th, the Idaho Freedom Foundation will host a 2013 Legislative Preview at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Boise. The event begins at 8:00 AM, and at 9:45, Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship, a former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives and a signatory to the Right On Crime Statement of Principles, will discuss criminal justice reform.

For more information on the event, click here.


Virginia Focuses on Efficient Juvenile Justice

Texas and many other states have turned to free-market principles to increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of their juvenile justice systems. By prioritizing public safety in the expenditure of precious taxpayer dollars, free-market principles seek to keep streets safer and rehabilitate more juvenile offenders.

Virginia, too, is beginning to ask pointed questions about how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. As Mike Thompson points out in a recent issue of the Jefferson Policy Journal, the current tab for secure confinement of juveniles in Virginia stretches over $200 per day, per juvenile—almost $100,000 per year. And three-quarters of those youth are convicted of another offense within three years of release.

Virginia’s taxpayers deserve better. Thompson goes on to point out that prioritizing funding for programs proven to reduce delinquency in youths can result in substantial cost savings and lower crime rates. While secure confinement is necessary in some cases, most youth benefit far more from tailored, evidence-based programs that truly break the underlying delinquency cycles. And when those cycles are truncated at an early stage, Virginia’s taxpayers and citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries.


IJ’s New Video on the Motel Caswell Case

The Institute for Justice has posted a new video explaining the notorious Motel Caswell asset forfeiture case in Massachusetts. The case has been generating significant media attention, including an article in the Wall Street Journal and a George F. Will column in the Washington Post. Professor Ilya Somin has also written a bit about the case on the Volokh Conspiracy.


Oklahoma Designs Reentry for Mentally Ill Inmates

Mentally ill offenders have a tendency to cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. Some members of law enforcement see the same offenders so often they’ve begun calling them “frequent flyers.”

To reduce the high recidivism in this class of offender, Oklahoma created the Oklahoma Collaborative Mental Health Reentry Program to keep mentally ill inmates from returning to prison. The Program in part ensures that mentally ill offenders continue to take their medication once they’re back on the streets. But beyond medication, it also involves counseling and reintegration classes, as well as assistance in finding housing and food.

Part of the key to accomplishing these goals is a concerted effort by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health to share information on offenders so that no one—and no issue—slips through the cracks.

Early results are positive: offenders entering the program recidivate at a rate of 25.2 percent, a far cry from the 42.3 percent for a comparable prison population.

Oklahoma officials estimate about half of their prison inmates have some form of a mental illness, and have documented a 300 percent increase in psychotropic drug administration between 1998 and 2006. Thus, reductions in recidivism in mentally ill offenders not only keep the public more safe, but cut down on costs in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.


New Jersey Cuts Juvenile Detention

Since 2004, 16 counties in New Jersey (out of 21) have begun participating in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, and have thus slashed detention rates by 60 percent.

The Initiative, active in several states across the country, works to provide alternatives to detention that still safely supervise youths prior to adjudication, but without unnecessarily relying on detention. And for good reason—detention costs usually tally over $200 per day, per youth, and actually can increase the risk for future reoffending in low- and medium-risk youth.

New Jersey began efforts to find a better way to handle youths prior to adjudication with just five counties in 2004. Those counties adopted electronic monitoring and reporting mandates, and focused on low-level, non-violent youths who do not pose sufficient public safety risk justifying pretrial secure detention.

The 60 percent drop in detentions is also significant news for taxpayers—it translates to $16 million in savings each fiscal year.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation analyzed the effects of that Initiative in just two Texas counties, and found fewer youths failing to appear for court dates, fewer youths being rearrested prior to court dates, and millions in savings for those counties as well.