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Crime Summit Seeks New Approach To Criminal Justice Policies June 13, 2009

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

On the same day that newspapers were reporting that one in 31 American adults is caught up in the correctional system, Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, hosted a Crime Summit in Washington, D.C. with the goal of developing a more enlightened approach to crime. The half-day event on March 3 addressed three broad issues: prevention and intervention,
sentencing and alternatives, and reentry and collateral consequences. FAMM participated in the summit. The sentencing and alternatives panel focused on the reasons behind the incredible growth in the number of people in
prison, and those who are otherwise involved in the criminal justice system. The panelists brought three distinct perspectives, for the most part blaming the inflexible and harsh mandatory minimum sentencing regime for growth in the U.S. correctional system. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner expressed frustration at the lack of discretion and being unable to weigh the culpability and characteristics of an offender when handing down a sentence. “I don’t know if anyone can understand what it’s like to sentence a defendant to a sentence which you know to be manifestly unfair.” Kemba Smith, president of the Kemba Smith Foundation and a member of FAMM, shared her story as someone who was sentenced under the laws, receiving 24 ½ years for a first-time, nonviolent crack cocaine offense. Jim Felman, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and practicing defense attorney, called on Congress to eliminate mandatory minimums and to increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration, including diverting or treating some low-level offenders. Other panels on prevention, intervention, reentry and collateral consequences explored some of the toughest challenges facing people in the criminal justice system today.
To read the report, Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress, please visit: www.2009transition.org.



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