Congressional Report Recommends Repealing Some Federal Criminal Statutes Amid Record-Breaking Prison Population

land of the freeWikipedia/Public DomainThe federal prison population is up nearly 800 percent since 1980, while the cost of doing all that incarceration is up nearly $3 billion in the last ten years, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service, which recommends some policy solutions, including:

For example, Congress could consider options such as (1) modifying mandatory minimum penalties, (2) expanding the use of Residential Reentry Centers, (3) placing more offenders on probation, (4) reinstating parole for federal inmates, (5) expanding the amount of good time credit an inmate can earn, and (6) repealing federal criminal statutes for some offenses.

On the problem with some federal criminal statutes, the report goes on to explain the federalization of criminal law:

One of the highlighted reasons for the growth in the federal prison population was the “federalization” of offenses that were traditionally under the sole jurisdiction of state authorities. Policymakers could consider revising the U.S. Code so that federal law enforcement focuses on crimes where states do not have jurisdiction over the offenses or where the federal government is best suited to investigate and prosecute the offenders (e.g., the offense involves multiple individuals acting together to commit crimes across several states). Some crimes will always be federal offenses…. However, over the years the federal government has become more involved in investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating people who commit drug offenses and offenses where a convicted felon is found to be in possession of a firearm. In many instances, states have criminal penalties for individuals who commit these types of crimes.

The president’s push for more federal gun controls combined with an aggressive prosecution of the war on drugs means the federal government appears to be going in the other direction, creating the conditions for an ever larger federal prison population (already the largest in the world).

A full three quarters of the federal prison population is incarcerated on drugs, immigration or weapons offenses, with only about 25 percent for violent, property or public order offenses.

The full report here (pdf) and read Jacob Sullum on 6,741 reasons not to expect criminal justice reform from President Obama.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • anon||

    A full three quarters of the federal prison population is incarcerated on drugs, immigration or weapons offenses, with only about 25 percent for violent, property or public order offenses.

    Without looking up the statistics, I'd bet that a good percentage of those 25% are in jail for "resisting arrest" or "public urination" or some other bullshit "crime."

  • Scooby||

    Since it only considers federal population, I'm pretty sure there are no public urination offenders, but plenty of those 25% are in for victimless white collar procedural violations.

  • R C Dean||

    Why does the Congressional Research Service hate the children, motherhood, sunsets, long walks in the rain, pina coladas, and all the things that make America [wipes tear] great?

  • anon||

    Another question: Congressional Research Service?

    Who the fuck pays these people to research shit that should be common sense?

    BOHICA

  • mad libertarian guy||

    For example, Congress could consider options such as (1) modifying mandatory minimum penalties, (2) expanding the use of Residential Reentry Centers, (3) placing more offenders on probation, (4) reinstating parole for federal inmates, (5) expanding the amount of good time credit an inmate can earn, and (6) repealing federal criminal statutes for some offenses.

    They could do those things. Too bad they won't, particularly the last one. Because it is all about perception, and congress will not have the public perceiving that it made a mistake, and if nothing else, repealing laws or reducing penance is admittance that you have made a mistake.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Also, politicians don't want to be seen as soft on crime. As all right-thinking people know, we are just one section of 18 U.S.C. away from becoming Somalia.

  • fish||

    No they probably will as soon as there is enough groundswell to give our brave brave legislators sufficient cover.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Heads will roll.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement