Creeping Overcriminalization Threatens Ordinary Citizens

fishermanA fisherman is currently facing trial with the possibility of twenty years in prison for losing three fish. This type of rampant expansion of criminality endangers all people, and neglects a long honored judicial doctrine, the rule of lenity. This ensures that if there is a statute with two reasonable readings, the one that can be construed more leniently for the defendant must be chosen. This is a key protection of citizens’ rights in the criminal court, and ignoring it sets a dangerous precedent.

These days, calls for criminal justice reform are loudest on the political right. Corrections reform has advanced rapidly in conservative states like Texas and Georgia; Republicans like Mike Lee and Rand Paul are vocal advocates for reforming mandatory minimum sentencing; and Koch Industries is involved in a major project to improve indigent defense.

There are many reasons conservatives are engaging so deeply with criminal justice. One notable reason is that they tend to notice creeping “overcriminalization,” causing them to reflect more broadly upon the entire justice system.

 

Continue Reading at The Federalist

Right on Crime Congratulates Governor-Elect Hutchinson, Other Conservative Criminal Justice Reformers on Their Victories

AUSTIN, TX—In the wake of an historic election wave that brought so many Republican lawmakers to power throughout the country, Right on Crime—the nationally-recognized conservative criminal justice reform organization—congratulates the hundreds of conservative elected officials dedicated to reforming America’s criminal justice system for their victories yesterday.

Yesterday’s election results were especially meaningful in Arkansas, as Right on Crime supporter Asa Hutchinson became that state’s governor-elect. Hutchinson, the former US Attorney and Administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, has been a long-time supporter of criminal justice reform and, since 2013, a signatory to the Right on Crime Statement of Principles.

The Statement of Principles is an outline for a conservative approach to America’s criminal justice system signed by more than 70 prominent conservative thought-leaders, including former governors, senators, attorneys general, as well as media, activist and think-tank voices.

Hutchinson, who said in March of this year that, “it is time for a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system,” later outlined substantial conservative reforms in his policy proposal, “Asa Plan for a Safer Arkansas,” including enhanced accountability and supervision for parolees and more effective re-entry programs. The Governor-elect has supported Right on Crime at public events, and appeared on television to promote the campaign.

Marc Levin, Policy Director at Right on Crime, said:

We are delighted that Asa Hutchinson will bring his remarkable record of visionary leadership and vast expertise in public safety to the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas.  Since signing on to the Right on Crime Statement of Principles, he has been incredibly helpful in our efforts, including testifying on behalf of Right on Crime before the Canadian parliament. We look forward to working with him in his new capacity to improve the criminal justice system in Arkansas.

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Right On Crime is the one-stop source for conservative ideas on criminal justice. It is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Prison Fellowship.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kevin McVicker with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs at (703) 739-5920 or [email protected]

Georgia Approves Aggressive Blueprint for Prisoner Reentry Initiative

Georgia criminal justice reform will push the pedal hard over the next several months with rapid expansion of the state’s prisoner reentry initiative. Millions of federal grant dollars will become seed money for fifteen pilot project sites starting now through the 2017 calendar year. The goal is to give released inmates a better chance to succeed when they go outside the walls.

“If we really want to impact statewide recidivism reduction we’ve got to make sure we are targeting our resources on the right individuals and, by the way, the right interventions as well,” says Jay Neal, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry.

The state Council on Criminal Justice Reform voted to approve a three-year prisoner reentry initiative (GA-PRI) when it met this week in Atlanta. The Council also approved a presentation Georgia will make during a Pew Charitable Trusts conference next month in San Diego.

 

Continue Reading at MikeKleinOnline.com

Breitbart Texas: Reform Efforts Should Be Judged by Success Rate and Recidivism, Not Simply Economics

Breitbart Texas covers the discussion on criminal justice reform at this year’s TribFest in Austin, Texas, which featured Right on Crime Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy. According to the article, Reddy”praised the legislature for using offender outcomes to judge the success of their programs, instead of solely looking at budget savings. Improvements in recidivism rates, restitution to victims, education advancements by offenders, and successful completion of drug and behavioral treatment all factored into improved public safety beyond any budget line.”

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has made great progress in the area of criminal justice reform, but there is still a long way to go. That was the consensus message from a panel discussion earlier last month at the University of Texas at Austin, as reform advocates from the left and right, a state representative, and a man incarcerated for nearly twenty five years for a crime he did not commit, shared their thoughts with an audience of journalists, professors, students, and activists interested in criminal justice reform at the Texas Tribune’s annual Texas Tribune Festival.

The panel, titled “What’s Next for Criminal Justice Reform?” was moderated by Bill Keller, editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, a non-profit news website that focuses on criminal justice issues. Panelists included  Vikrant Reddy, senior policy analyst with the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy FoundationMichael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife and spent nearly 25 years in prison before being exonerated in 2011, State Representative James White (R-Woodville), Vice-Chairman of the House Corrections Committee, and Ana Yáñez-Correa, Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Continue reading at Breitbart Texas.

Overcriminalization Goes to the Supreme Court

Ahead of oral arguments in U.S. v. Yates, legal experts demand an end to the proliferation of thousands of capricious federal statutory crimes

Austin, TX— In the run-up to the Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments in U.S. v. Yates, Right on Crime, the nationally recognized conservative criminal justice reform organization, will convene a briefing on over-criminalization and prosecutorial overreach.

In this case, a Florida law enforcement officer (deputized as a federal officer by the National Marine Fisheries Service) boarded the ship of a commercial fisherman, John Yates, for an inspection of his catch of more than 3,000 fish. The officer accused Yates of catching 72 undersized red grouper. Upon second count, however, the officer only found 69 groupers. He accused Yates of throwing fish overboard, and for this alleged disposal of evidence, a federal prosecutor criminally charged Yates with violating the “anti-document-shredding” provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in the wake of the 2001 Enron accounting scandal. The violation is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The assembled legal experts will discuss solutions to prosecutorial overreach of this sort, such as strengthening mens rea protections in statutes and eliminating certain crimes altogether.

Right On Crime’s parent organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, signed an amicus brief in Yates observing that the prosecutorial overreach in the case is part of a larger trend of over-criminalization in America. Modern federal criminal law provides for almost 5,000 crimes. Historically, “crime” was a term restricted to morally blameworthy actions, but today, many ordinary activities are captured by the term. Individuals have been threatened with prosecution (and in some cases served prison time) for importing lobsters in the wrong container, mislabeling paperwork on orchids, and helping injured animals.
 
Press Briefing on Over-criminalization and U.S. v. Yates, featuring:

  • Marc Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime
  • Vikrant P. Reddy, Senior Policy Analyst, Right on Crime
  • Adeel Bashir, Counsel for Mr. John Yates
  • William Shepherd, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Paul J. Larkin, Jr., The Heritage Foundation
  • Pat Nolan, The American Conservative Union

 

Monday, November 3, 2014 at 1:30 PM

American Conservative Union
1331 H Street, NW |  Suite 500
Washington, DC

This event is sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the American Conservative Union, the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kevin McVicker with Shirley & Banister Public Affairs at (703) 739-5920 or [email protected].