“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

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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...]

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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

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Giving Kids Adult Records: Cohen and Fowler in the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News published a piece by Right on Crime policy analyst Derek Cohen and Deborah Fowler, deputy director for Texas Appleseed. They write that, despite large criminal justice reform waves sweeping across Texas, there is still one area where government over reach and inefficiency is apparent. Truancy, previously a minor misbehavior dealt with by parents and teachers, is today a crime that can earn a child an adult record. This process hurts the child, damages families, and has stunts economic growth. Handing out criminal records for behavior like truancy lowers the likelihood of the child getting a job and raises the likelihood of future welfare support.

Texas is one of only two states (the other is Wyoming) that employ the criminal justice system to punish truancy. The Texas Education Code — the body of law that regulates the activity of all educational institutions in the state — empowers school districts to file a criminal complaint against a child as young as 10 who has missed three days of school. After 10 missed days within a six-month period, however, the district’s discretion is removed and it is required to file against the child.

This is known as “Failure to Attend School,” or FTAS, a Class C misdemeanor that can carry up to $500 in fines and leave an indelible mark on the child’s criminal record. These fines are levied all too often on low-income families who don’t have the savings to pay them. If a child or parent is unable to pay the $500, or if the child misses one more day after adjudication, he or she can face jail time for the violation of a valid court order. In addition to the burden this places on families, the criminalization of truancy is a drain on limited court resources.

In addition, NBC News affiliate KXAN-Austin interviewed Cohen on the issue of truancy in Texas schools. Watch the clip below.

 

 

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Overcriminalization in America: No Home for Justice

All Jack and his wife Jill Barron wanted was a home near their family for retirement. After going through all of the necessary permitting, they purchased the land where they intended to build. But soon the EPA alleged that the land might be a wetland and began restricting building on the site. Eventually the EPA brought felony charges on Jack for bringing gravel on to his property. This sparked a legal fight that threatened Jack with federal prison.

After extensive legal fees and a great deal of time and stress on the part of the couple, a jury decided that the property had not been proved to be a wetland and found Jack not guilty. But the EPA continues to require Jack to restore the property to its original state, prohibiting his development. [Read more...]

This is the first of a series of films that looks at what happens in an overcriminalized society. A couple can lose their life savings in legal fights through overgrown bureaucracy.

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