ACLU and Koch Industries Partner on Overcriminalization

Politico Magazine has an interesting piece by Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, and Mark Holden, General Counsel of Koch Industries, entitled "A New Beginning for Criminal Justice Reform."  In the piece, the two argue in favor of the bipartisan Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act (SAFE Justice Act) introduced in Congress on June 25, 2015 by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

The piece begins:

The criminal justice system’s problems are evident all around us.

Over the past three decades, Congress has steadily increased the size and scope of the federal criminal code, ensnaring people who have no business being behind bars, without a corresponding benefit to public safety. From 1980 to 2013, the federal criminal code increased from 3,000 crimes to approximately 5,000 crimes. Over the same period, our federal prison population skyrocketed from 24,000 to 215,000 — a 795 percent overall increase — while federal spending on prisons also soared from $970 million to more than $6.7 billion — a 595 percent increase.

While we have a good handle on how much taxpayers’ money we’ve wasted on over-criminalization and mass incarceration, the cost in human lives is incalculable. Almost every single federal prisoner serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses has one thing in common: a drug offense that resulted in a de facto death sentence. This excessive reliance on punitive sentencing destroys individual lives, families and communities. It is not clear it makes communities any safer. In addition, it is fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant.

This points to a simple conclusion: The criminal justice system must be reformed. It must be dramatically altered to maximize public safety, minimize its cost to taxpayers and ensure that justice is served — for the victims of crimes, the individuals who commit them and for society at large.

That is why we, two unlikely allies — the American Civil Liberties Union and Koch Industries — support Reps. Sensenbrenner and Scott’s new bipartisan reform proposal. Both of our organizations are deeply concerned with helping the least fortunate and ensuring that justice is served equally and to all, regardless of their socioeconomic status or their station in life. The SAFE Justice Act contains numerous reforms that will begin turning this shared dream into a reality.
You can read the entire article and its discussion of the specific proposals in the SAFE Justice Act here.

I had the honor of testifying before Representat
ive Sensenbrenner and Scott's bipartisan "Over-Criminalization Task Force" regarding the topic of "Regulatory Crime: Solutions" on November 14, 2013.  You can read my 2013 testimony here.  You can also read my article regarding the symbiotic relationship between overcriminalization and plea bargaining here.


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