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Fix our criminal justice system

April 30, 2015
William C. Hubbard

Reprinted with permission from The Hill. 

In signing major Medicare reform, President Obama touted a “significant bipartisan achievement” (“Obama signs $200 billion ‘doc fix’ bill,” April 16). Now is the time to build on this bipartisan momentum to fix our out-of-balance criminal justice system. Lawmakers of both parties are intensely interested in these issues, as lawyers saw firsthand during the American Bar Association’s annual grassroots lobbying event this month. There is widespread concern over several troubling facts:

  • The federal prison population has increased nearly 800 percent since 1980 and more than doubled since 1994, with spending up 1,700 percent since 1980.
  • Federal prisons are currently operating at 132 percent of capacity, due largely to mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.
  • Over-reliance on prison has imposed a disparate impact on minority communities.

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