FROM Adam Gelb
Jeff Sessions: New sheriff in town Violent crime's at an all-time low, and President Trump's Attorney General says he wants to keep it that way — by removing federal limits on local police. Critics fear Jeff Sessions is going back to the "tough on crime" days and mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders in American jails and prisons. But federal law-breakers are just 10% of the nation's criminals — and even Red States are cutting costs by reducing incarceration without increasing crime. Other, states have legalized recreational marijuana. Is America facing a cultural crisis over another "war on drugs?"
Data-driven Sentencing Attorney General Eric Holder recently came out against a practice called data-driven sentencing, saying that it results in racial disparities. States are increasingly using data-driven sentencing - a model that tries to predict the chances of a criminal reoffending - to determine the length of sentencing. But does data-driven sentencing come down harder on poor minorities than other offenders?
What's Happened to America's 'Crackdown on Crime?' After 30 years of being "tough on crime," the US -- with 5% of the world's population -- has 25% of its prisoners, and that's very expensive. Now the crime rate is way down. Conservatives are joining liberals, demanding reduced sentences and alternatives to incarceration. Texas is one of the states where prisons are being shut down. But hard-liners warn that so-called "smart sentencing" will push the crime rate back up again. Eric Holder told the American Bar Association today that America's 30-year crackdown has produced unintended consequences, and called for reform. The Attorney General has support from some unexpected sources, including Grover Norquist , one of the most influential conservatives in Washington. We update the controversy.
State Prison Populations Dip for First Time in 38 Years In 1972, there were 174,000 inmates in state prisons around the country. The number today is one 1,400,000. But now, for the first time, the total has dropped , if only slightly. The Pew Center on the States reports that the combined prison population is down by about 5,700 inmates. Though it’s just 0.4% less than it was last year, the decline could have long-term significance. Adam Gelb, Director of the Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, explains what it has to do with the economy and new ideas about public safety.
Will Broken State Budgets Mean Prison Reform? In the past 20 years, state prison budgets have increased by 303 percent, outgrowing everything else except Medicaid. America's prison population is now much larger than China's, and five states spend more on corrections than higher education. But every state is now faced with the worst financial crisis in decades, and that's leading to cuts that only recently were considered off limits. The Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Center on the States funded a recent report on the fiscal crisis in corrections.
Will Broken State Budgets Mean Prison Reform? The United States has more people in prison than anyplace in the world. China's a distant second. After 20 years of tough-on-crime legislation, state prison budgets have increased by 303 percent, outgrowing everything else except Medicaid. Five states spend more on corrections than higher education. But the crackdown is costing more than states can afford. The total shortfall is $100 billion, and even some hard-core conservatives support reforms in sentencing, parole and probation. Recent evidence shows that less expensive alternative punishments can work. But it's also true that imprisonment keeps criminals off the street. Will the financial crisis produce real reform or temporary savings that risk public safety?
Tough-on-Crime Policies Overwhelm Shrinking State Budgets Politicians always want to be “tough on crime,” but with states facing budget crises, can they afford to be? As states are forced to shut down prisons, shorten sentences, and lock up fewer criminals, are they making the corrections system more efficient or are they making us less safe? How are “law and order” politicians adapting to the new budget realities of skyrocketing prison costs? Can a cheaper prison system be a better one?
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Trump plays scolder-in-chief with NATO allies At the opening of NATO’s dramatic new headquarters in Brussels today, President Trump acknowledged that Article 5 — promising that “an attack on one nation is an attack on all” -- has only been invoked one time: in the aftermath of September 11. But the President failed to provide what 27 other Alliance members have been waiting for: a re-commitment by America’s new leader to Article 5. Instead, they got a scolding.
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.