Holy Family’s Social Justice Committee supports criminal justice reform
Holy Family Social Justice Committee voted unanimously on Nov. 21 to support a bi-partisan Congressional and Presidential proposal for a beginning of criminal justice reform.
The First Step Act will reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenders, for thousands of 183,000 in federal prisons, and future offenders.
It also gives earlier release incentives for those who successfully participate in treatment, educational and vocational training and increases funding for those.
The experiences of 22 states, 10 of which are fully Republican-controlled, have been convincing. Even though they reduced sentencing terms, reduced prison populations, their crime rates went down. The conclusion: lengthly sentences had little impact as crime deterrence.
They’re tagging this as “Smart (rather than “tough”) on Crime.” They also point out that it’s “Smart” on taxpayers’ pocketbooks. (Interestingly the Reagan administration had Rand Corp. do a study of those in prison. They concluded that 90 percent of those in prison should serve shorter sentences. They suggested that quick and certain punishment was more effective than long sentences. For the 10 percent they pegged as “violent predators” – longer sentences. Our society and politicians didn’t pay attention then. They are now and we should encourage them.)
Recent national studies show that 90 percent of US drug users are white and 74 percent of drug dealers of white. Yet minorities represent about 90 percent of those imprisoned for drug offenses. Numerous earlier studies, including by the American Bar Association and Monroe BA, came to similar conclusions.
Given the prejudiced way we enforce crime, primarily against the poor and minorities, and especially with drug crimes, it’s a matter of justice as well.
Mr. Golden is a retired Probation director in Orleans County, and chairman of the Holy Family Social Justice Committee in Albion. Golden also served on former Bishop Kmiec’s Peace and Justice Commission. Several members of the Social Justice Committee worked in the criminal justice, health and social works fields.