“Reaching the Tipping Point”

Right on Crime’s Director, Marc Levin, was invited to participate in a panel discussion, hosted by Charles Koch Institute on what Congress and the Administration can do to change the current criminal justice system, how smart approaches to tackling crime can reduce costs and improve our quality of life, and the consequences of doing nothing.

 

Moderator:
William P. Ruger, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Policy, Charles Koch Institute

Speakers:
Molly Gill, Government Affairs Counsel, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime, Texas Public Policy Foundation
John Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
Laura Murphy, Director, Washington Legislative Office, American Civil Liberties Union

Chuck DeVore Talks Right on Crime on the Rick Amato Show

This past week Chuck DeVore, Vice President of Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sat down with Rick Amato on the OneAmerica Network to discuss criminal justice issues from a conservative perspective.

DeVore began by recapping the changes that have occurred in Texas in the last several years, a bipartisan movement to get the state off of the expensive track its correctional facilities were heading down. This movement managed to slow government spending and rather than opening new prisons as expected the state shut several down. What followed this move many didn’t expect. Instead of crime rates moving upward as some predicted the state is now experiencing its lowest crime rates since the sixties.

The saved funding from these changes is now being used much more efficiently, DeVore notes. Instead of being used to create new cells for the non-violent offenders he focuses on, it is being spent on programs that have demonstrably lowered recidivism, such as substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, and community monitoring.

This efficiency is exactly what conservatives support. DeVore reminds us that, “Conservatives ought to be skeptical of government, all of government, not just certain aspects of government.” Lowering government spending and utilizing the funds in the most efficient manner possible is the essence of conservatism.

Amato was particularly curious about how DeVore felt about drug crimes. Differentiating between legalization and decriminalization, DeVore showed that legalization ignored chemical dependencies but that decriminalization was a movement to divert the offenders from the path they were on by using the fact that they had broken the law as a “hammer” to force them to address the issue of their dependency, for the betterment and safety of everyone around them.

Finally, Amato asked about the issue of race in the criminal justice and correctional systems. The underlying demographics of poverty and unemployment were the real offenders, DeVore argued, and once those had been challenged the system should be reevaluated.  [Read more...]

Rating the States: Giving Kids A Second Chance

Many people assume that one of the key differences between the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems is that juveniles are able to get their records sealed or expunged once adjudicated. The thing is, very often that doesn’t happen.

There are many reasons that we have separate systems for juveniles and adults. It is very important to keep juveniles accountable for their decisions and mistakes. Lack of consequences for dangerous behavior would be extremely detrimental to all children’s safety. But it is also important to remember that these decisions and mistakes don’t have the same indicative quality that they have when made by adults. A juvenile that commits a low-level property crime is still very likely to move on and become a contributing adult instead of an imprisoned offender on the government’s dime.

But a criminal record is something that makes this extremely difficult to do. A non-sealed juvenile record prevents admittance to many medical schools and is a potential bar to law schools as well as military service. And even without express bars, many employers do background checks and are more likely to refuse employment to someone with a record. Such a bleak future makes it much more difficult to push oneself through an education and into a career.

Very recently the Juvenile Law Center, a nonprofit law firm, released a scorecard for the nation, looking at the protections offered to juveniles in all fifty states and rating them based on the availability of confidentiality and expungement. What they found was startling.

Expungement and/or sealing makes such a beneficial action much more likely. But, the Juvenile Law Center shows, the majority of states make that difficult for most juveniles. New Mexico was rated the highest and given four stars. A few other states also managed to reach that number. Texas and California were among them. But the vast majority of the states were rated well below that.

And now, once you separate out the results, it becomes clear that many states have few confidentiality provisions at all. Arrest records and court records are not protected in lots of states, like Georgia and Michigan. And quite a few states actively make these available to the public on online databases or through individual requests. And even states that do have protections often don’t have sanctions for the violation of those protections.

These protections are there or a reason. Giving youth a second chance often provides them with an opportunity to get an education, a job, and provide for families. But failing to do this often results in unemployment and increased likelihood of recidivism. This compromises public safety and increases government spending in corrections. Providing for confidentiality and enforcing it is critical to the successes that have occurring in several states criminal justice systems. Other states should take note and make sure they aren’t neglecting to take advantage of these opportunities.

 

Study Finds Idaho Last in Protecting Juvenile Records

Geoffrey Talmon of the Idaho Freedom Foundation reviews the recent Juvenile Law Center survey of how America’s states protect the records of juvenile offenders in their criminal justice systems. As the the survey notes, “Idaho receives the lowest score because there are no confidentiality protections for juvenile records and very few records are eligible for sealing.” Talmon writes:

Concerning expungement of records, Idaho scored only slightly better against the eight criteria that were considered (availability of sealing or expungement, which records are available for sealing or expungement, which offenses are excluded from sealing or expungement, degree of automation in sealing or expungement, notification of availability of sealing or expungement, timing of sealing or expungement fees for sealing or expungement and sanctions for failure to comply with sealing or expungement laws). On these measures, Idaho received 14 out of 50 possible points, earning a two-star rating.

As Idaho continues to reform its criminal justice system and to build on the momentum established in passing the Justice Reinvestment Act during the 2014 legislative session, the Legislature should take a close look at this study and think about the way we treat juvenile offenders.

Continue reading…

Levin featured in Federalist Society debate on Criminal Sentencing Reform

Although prison populations at the federal level have very recently declined for the first time in decades, prisoner population at the state level rose. The cost of crime, some that can be measured and some that are impossible to measure, is undoubtedly high, but so too is the cost of incarceration. Are we striking the right balance in length of sentences? And what is the proper balance between latitude and sentencing guidelines for judges? Do the answers to these questions differ for the state versus the federal criminal justice system?

The Federalist Society’s Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group presented this panel on “Criminal Sentencing Reform: A Conversation among Conservatives” on Friday, November 14, during the 2014 National Lawyers Convention.

  • Mr. Marc A. Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • John G. Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
  • Hon. Michael B. Mukasey, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and former U.S. Attorney General
  • Prof. William G. Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Moderator: Hon. William H. Pryor, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit