With the rise in the crime rate in recent years, short sentences are a major concern of most Americans. In actuality, the high degree of states under-reporting prisoners serving time in prisons tends to cloud our perceptions. The level of under-reporting can be traced to factors which are not accounted for by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), who publish information regarding prisoners who have been released from prison during a specific time period in a number of monographs. These factors include data such as the amount of time spent in local jails in pre-trial status awaiting their transfer to state prisons and periods of confinement associated with re-admission to prison due to violations of parole. Clearly, a more accurate method of measuring length of stay is needed to better inform the decision-making process in corrections policy development.
Reinventing Juvenile Justice presents an honest, albeit somewhat painful, view of the current status of justice for young offenders. Could it be that the celebrated "children's court" has outlived its usefulness? This central question is raised by the authours in exploring whether the juvenile court can or should survive in the years ahead. This book is available here.
Over the last few years, a number of articles and reports have been published documenting the rise in U.S. crime rates and advocating increased use of incarceration to reverse the trend. Supporters have concluded that incarceration, while costly, is less expensive than the crime it prevents, concluding that imprisonment was remarkably cost-effective because each year of prison time saved taxpayers $430,000 in criminal justice expenditures. Advocates of increased incarceration have, at best, presented an incomplete picture to the American public. The huge and expensive increase in the use of imprisonment over the last decade has not led to decreases in crime. It is time to abandon the "prisons pay" myth and move on to affordable intermediate sanctions that adequately protect the public while offering more hope for long-term reductions in crime.
The incarceration rate for female offenders has skyrocketed in recent years. This has spurred unwelcomed growth of the invisible class of infants, children, and teenagers who find themselves without a mother at home. While new legions of children are growing up separated from their mothers, government agencies appear more powerless than ever to attend to the needs of their children, their mothers, and their caregivers. Now more than ever, we must renew our concern and define our commitment to these children.
The past decade has witnessed an interesting experiment in sentencing practices within the state of Florida. During the 1980's, the legislature adopted a number of sentencing reforms including the abolition of parole and indeterminate sentencing and the enactment of various mandatory minimum and Habitual Offender sentencing laws. The Habitual Offender laws state that a population of criminals in Florida are habitually involved in serious criminal activities and are responsible for the majority of crimes committed in Florida. They go on to state that incarcerating these criminals will reduce Florida's crime rate and that the costs of incarcerating those habitual offenders will be offset by savings to public in terms of reduced crime rates and victim losses. Studies conducted by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency conclude that it will be impossible for Florida to avoid either a massive crowding situation or an equally massive prison construction and expansion program, costing hundreds of millions of dollars that the state does not have, unless dramatic and substantial sentencing reforms are immediately adopted.