Photo Credit: iStock
Photo Credit: iStock
Criminal Justice

New Report Shows Benefits of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform at State Level

State prison systems have been unsuccessfully scrambling to keep pace with the increasing number of inmates since the 1980s. Many penal facilities throughout the country are significantly over-capacity and draining taxpayer dollars. The most effective way to combat the surge of individuals in prison is to engage in reforming mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, low-risk offenders, according to the new report, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Saves States Money and Reduces Crime Rates, released Wendesday by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

This report, written by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) State Project Director Gregory Newburn, utilizes the ALEC Justice Safety Valve Act model policy as an example states may adopt. The Justice Safety Valve Act permits judges the discretion to depart from mandatory sentences for nonviolent, low-risk offenders who meet specified criteria. For example, this policy does not apply to sex offenders, offenders convicted of violent crimes, or individuals with a previous conviction for the same offense within 10 years of the commission of that offense. The new report states the ALEC model policy can aid in preventing nonviolent, low-risk offenders from getting the same sentence as a dangerous or repeat offender. Additionally, with fewer prisoners to house, scarce taxpayer dollars could be saved and diverted to other state needs.

Beyond these logical, advantageous outcomes, the report cites specific case studies to prove crime rates have fallen in states that have successfully implemented reforms. After facing years of an increasing prison population and exploding corrections spending, South Carolina adopted sentencing reform in 2010 and has since closed two minimum-security prisons, saved millions of dollars and experienced a falling crime rate. Georgia had similar outcomes after passing the safety valve in 2013 at the recommendation of a special council created by Governor Nathan Deal. The FAMM website points to a Pew study indicating all 17 states that have decreased their prison populations have simultaneously observed a reduction in crime rates. The results are convincing more states to enact reforms of their own. FAMM indicates they are currently working with Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to pass meaningful sentencing reform.

To download a copy of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Reform Saves States Money and Reduces Crime Rates or to read the press release,click here.

In Depth: Criminal Justice

The American Legislative Exchange Council is proud to be a leader on criminal justice reform. For over a decade, the ALEC task force on criminal justice has brought state legislators and stakeholders together for the purpose of driving sound criminal justice policies. ALEC members focus on new and innovative state…

+ Criminal Justice In Depth