Sunday, June 14, 2009
The US Senate, Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing this past week (June 11th) titled, "Exploring the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009." (see here). Panel Two included Chief William Bratton - LA Police Dept., Pat Nolan - VP Prison Fellowship, Professor Charles Ogletree - Harvard, and Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation. The panel discussed issues related to massive incarceration, including the incarceration of the mentally ill. Chief William Bratton noted how the "American system of justice is overworked." Professor Charles Ogletree said that we need to retire the phrase "a war on crime" and replace it with a phrase "be smart on crime." Brian Walsh emphasized that crime reform should not be driven by partisan politics and he also stressed the importance of examining overcriminalization issues. Pat Nolan gave some concrete examples of how to reform incarceration practices to save money and achieve better results.
Listening to this hearing, sent the important message that we need to stop thinking just retribution, and thinking wisely about how to reduce recidivism. It was particularly good to see that some were mentioning the importance of distinguishing crimes and criminals. With the increased white collar sentences, it is hoped that if a President's Commission is established it will look closely at how best to treat white collar and corporate offenders.