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The Resurgence of Religion in America’s Prisons

August 28, 2014 Comments off

The Resurgence of Religion in America’s Prisons
Source: Religions

This article discusses the growing prominence of “faith-based” programs in American corrections and the historical context of penal regime change during periods of economic crisis. The article traces areas of overlap and divergence in recent discussions of penal reform in the U.S. The article suggests a new American penitentiary movement is emerging, noting central tenets of faith-based programs have salience for both conservatives and liberals: on the one hand, faith-based programs are largely paid for by church congregations and volunteers, which appeals to conservatives’ desire to shrink government and get taxpayers out of the business of community building; on the other, faith-based programs demonstrate a recommitment to having at least some level of programming in prisons, which satisfies the left’s view that community building and social capital ultimately lower recidivism. The paper documents several prominent faith-based correctional programs while articulating an agenda for research.

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Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends
Source: Vera Institute

In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.

The US Crime Puzzle: A Comparative Perspective on US Crime & Punishment

August 27, 2014 Comments off

The US Crime Puzzle: A Comparative Perspective on US Crime & Punishment
Source: Social Science Research Network

I generate out-of-sample predictions of US crime and incarceration rates from cross-country regressions. Predictors suggested in the literature explain a large part of the international variation, but fail to explain the US. The US incarceration rate is four times higher than predicted, while US crime rates are at best slightly below the prediction. An explanation of this US crime puzzle requires a low crime-punishment elasticity at US levels of punishment, and/or an extraordinarily high US latent crime rate. I derive joint bounds for the two. Drawing on additional country-specific information, I argue that the most plausible explanation combines both elements.

Jails In Indian Country, 2013

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Jails In Indian Country, 2013
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Presents findings from the 2013 Survey of Jails in Indian Country, an enumeration of 79 jails, confinement facilities, detention centers, and other correctional facilities operated by tribal authorities or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This report examines the trends from 2000 to 2013 in the number of adults and juveniles held, type of offense, number of persons confined on the last weekday in June, peak population, average daily population, admissions in June, and expected average length of stay in jail at admission. It also provides data on rated capacity, facility crowding, and jail staffing in June 2013. In addition, it provides counts of inmate deaths and suicide attempts for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2013 and compares to counts in prior years.

Highlights:

  • At midyear 2013, a total of 2,287 inmates were confined in Indian country jails—a 3.3% decrease from the 2,364 inmates confined at midyear 2012.
  • The number of inmates admitted into Indian country jails during June 2013 (10,977) was five times the size of the average daily population (2,141).
  • Since 2010, about 31% of inmates in Indian country jails have been confined for a violent offense, a decline from about 39% in each year between midyear 2004 and 2009.
  • Domestic violence (15%) and aggravated or simple assault (10%) accounted for the largest percentage of violent offenders at midyear 2013, followed by unspecified violence (5%) and rape or sexual assault (2%).
  • Nearly 2 in 10 inmates were held for public intoxication at midyear 2013.

U.S. Sentencing Commission — Guideline Application Frequencies for Fiscal Year 2013

August 4, 2014 Comments off

Guideline Application Frequencies for Fiscal Year 2013
Source: United States Sentencing Commission

The following four comprehensive data tables provide information on guideline application during Fiscal Year 2013. The Commission received information concerning 80,035 cases in which the offender was sentenced in fiscal year 2013, of which 71,004 contained complete guideline information. “Complete guideline information” means that the Commission received the following sentencing documents for each case: the Judgment and Conviction Order, the Statement of Reasons, and the Presentence Report.

The first table, Use of Guidelines and Specific Offense Characteristics – Guidelines Based Analysis Fiscal Year 2013, details the use of each guideline, alternative base offense level, and specific offense characteristic (SOC) for that year. The second table, Chapter Three Adjustments – Guidelines Based Analysis Fiscal Year 2013, provides the number and percentage of Chapter Three adjustments for each guideline. These tables include information on all guideline applications for the 71,004 cases with complete guideline information. In cases with multiple guideline calculations, each guideline calculation is included separately in the analysis.

The next set of tables provides similar information but on an offender-by-offender basis. Use of Guidelines and Specific Offense Characteristics – Offender Based Fiscal Year 2013, provides an analysis of the primary guideline applied by the court in each case, including any alternative base offense level and SOC for that guideline. In case with more than one guideline calculation, the primary guideline is the guideline that resulted in the final offense level that the court applied when determining the sentence. Data relating to the application of guideline provisions that were not the primary guideline in the case are not included. Chapter Three Adjustments – Offender Based Analysis Fiscal Year 2013, provides the number and percentage of the Chapter Three adjustments for the primary guideline applied in each case.

State Prison Health Care Spending

July 30, 2014 Comments off

State Prison Health Care Spending
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

This report finds that state spending on prisoner health care increased from fiscal 2007 to 2011, but began trending downward from its peak in 2009. Nationwide, prison health care spending totaled $7.7 billion in fiscal 2011, down from a peak of $8.2 billion in fiscal 2009. In a majority of states, correctional health care spending and per-inmate health care spending peaked before fiscal 2011. But a steadily aging prison population is a primary challenge that threatens to drive costs back up. The share of older inmates rose in all but two of the 42 states that submitted prisoner age data. States where older inmates represented a relatively large share of the total prisoner population tended to incur higher per-inmate health care spending.

U.S. Sentencing Commission Authorizes Delayed Retroactive Sentence Reductions for Drug Offenders

July 19, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Sentencing Commission Authorizes Delayed Retroactive Sentence Reductions for Drug Offenders (PDF)
Source: United States Sentencing Commission

On July 18, 2014, the Commission voted unanimously to apply a reduction in the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders retroactively. Unless Congress disapproves the amendment, beginning November 1, 2014, eligible offenders can ask courts to reduce their sentences. Offenders whose requests are granted by the courts can be released no earlier than November 1, 2015.

+ Retroactivity Amendment and Synopsis (PDF)
+ Chair’s Remarks on Retroactivity Vote (PDF)
+ Public Comment on Retroactivity
+ Impact Analysis: Retroactive Application of 2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment (PDF)
+ Recidivism Analysis: Offenders Receiving Retroactive Sentence Reductions (PDF)

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