Federal prison population drops for 1st time in decades
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press
Posted: October 8th, 2014
The federal prison population has dropped in the last year by roughly 4,800, the first time in several decades that the inmate count has gone down. In a speech Tuesday in New York City, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department expects to end the current budget year next week with a prison population of roughly 215,000 inmates. It would be the first time since 1980 that the federal prison population has declined during the course of a fiscal year. The crime rate has dropped along with the prison population, Holder said, proving that longer-than-necessary prison terms dont improve public safety. In fact, the opposite is often true, he said. The Bureau of Prisons accounts for roughly one-third of the Justice Department budget, and the prison population has exploded in the last three decades as a result of well-intentioned policies designed to be 'tough on criminals, Holder said. In August 2013, for instance, he announced a major shift in sentencing policy, instructing federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. More recently, the Justice Department has encouraged a broader swath of the prison population to apply for clemency, and has supported reductions in sentencing guideline ranges for drug criminals that could apply to tens of thousands of inmates. We know that over-incarceration crushes opportunity. We know it prevents people, and entire communities, from getting on the right track, Holder said. Holder also said that there should be new ways for the government to measure success of its criminal justice policies beyond how many people are prosecuted and sent to prison.
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