Proposed Crime Control Legislation in the U.S. Congress

Corrections Today, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Proposed Crime Control Legislation in the U.S. Congress


Issue: A Balanced Public Policy on Crime Control

Call for Action: The American Correctional Association (ACA) urges the U.S. Congress to draft language in proposed crime control legislation pertaining to adult and juvenile offenders, to include support for incarcerating violent offenders and persons using a firearm in the commission of a crime, using community-based punishments for nonviolent offenders, and implementing recidivism reduction measures, "drug courts" and prevention programs.

Position: ACA supports a balanced approach to crime reduction that is fiscally sound and uses correctional facilities for serious, violent offenders while using community-based punishments for nonviolent offenders. ACA supports the requirement that offenders pay restitution to their victims. We recommend that community service be imposed in those individual cases where 100 percent financial restitution is unfeasible.

ACA recognizes that incarceration is an integral part of combating crime when combined with a comprehensive approach that includes other effective tools aimed at prevention, policing, punishment and treatment. Efforts by Congress to address the nation's crime problem should provide adequate funding to federal, state and local governments for construction and operation of correctional facilities and programs.

ACA supports the concept of truth-in-sentencing. We urge Congress to modify the 85 percent compliance requirement to ensure that the optimum number of agencies are eligible to receive funding at the earliest possible date. ACA supports federal efforts to assist all levels of government with controlling crime while opposing federal mandates on states and localities in these efforts. ACA encourages Congress to resist legislating additional mandatory minimum sentences for offenses.

ACA supports violence reduction and crime prevention programs. These include drug treatment for offenders, in-school and after-school programs, offender education and training programs, and programs to reunite inmates with their families.

ACA supports in-prison programs that reduce idleness, promote safe working conditions for staff and serve as vital tools to the management of secure facilities. ACA is concerned about the safety and working conditions of correctional employees who must survive in correctional environments. We request that Congress evaluate the impact on the safety and working conditions of employees when eliminating programs.

ACA supports efforts to reduce frivolous lawsuits filed by inmates. We oppose mandates that require correctional agencies to provide the courts with records of inmate assets.

Background: While America's crime rate has remained steady over the past 20 years, there has been a 155 percent rise in prison commitments. This unprecedented increase in prison population from 1980 to 1992 has largely been due to drag, property and public order offenses (which comprise 84 percent of the incarceration rate increase) and to increasing mandatory minimum sentences.

National research on the impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines indicates that substantial numbers of low-level drug offenders have been sentenced to federal prison because of mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences encourage the release of violent offenders to make room for newly sentenced offenders, reduce the use of a broad range of less costly sentencing options, and increase the incarceration of nonviolent adult and juvenile offenders.

Mandating stringent truth-in-sentencing requirements on states will result in an estimated fewer than 20 percent of the correctional agencies qualifying for funds under the federal crime control initiative. With increased policing efforts and tougher sentencing, prison and jail space must be made available for serious, violent offenders who pose a danger to the public. Combining resources for adequate prison and jail space with funding to expand intermediate punishment capacity will help to achieve this goal. …

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