American Public Wants Sensible Justice Reform

March 6th, 2018 by Attorney Dan Carman

Americans are known as being for “law and order,” but we understand that locking people up and throwing away the key isn’t the solution in most cases. Kentucky and the country would benefit from approaching the issue of law enforcement in terms of drug abuse and mental health treatment and rehabilitation for those convicted of non-violent crimes. This view is popular among the U.S. population, according to results of a new survey by Zogby Associations for the MacArthur Foundation.

Nearly 60% of respondents said rehabilitation or treatment is the most important issue when someone is sentenced after conviction for a non-violent crime. Zogby states that there’s a big difference between how people think the justice system should work and how it actually works. Nationwide, there are nearly 12 million local jail admissions annually, nearly twenty times the number of prison admissions. Those in local jails are mostly awaiting trial or serving short sentences following a conviction.

Key findings of the survey are:

  • More than a third of Americans feel “rehabilitation or treatment” is the purpose of jail, not “punishing people for committing crime,” “showing the consequences” of crime or “removing them from the community.”
  • 60% of Americans believe that “rehabilitating or treating the person” is the best response to non-violent offenses, not “punishing the person for committing the crime” or “keeping the person off the street so they can’t commit more crimes.”
  • Support for rehabilitation increases to 71% for those suffering from a mental illness convicted of non-violent offenses.
  • 75% of Americans believe the best sentence for a conviction of someone with a mental disorder should not involve jail time except in cases of violent crimes.
  • Most Americans see alternatives to prison time (treatment or rehabilitative services, probation, or community service) as the best option in non-violent crimes.
  • 28% of Americans believe local criminal justice systems are “somewhat unfair” or “very unfair.”
  • 73% of Americans familiar with pretrial services support their use. These services try to determine the risk a defendant poses to the community, then suggest conditions under which the person could be released from jail while waiting for a trial and how to supervise defendants freed from custody while waiting for a trial.
  • 84% of state / local governments should spend more resources on substance abuse treatment.

Until those making decisions on the state and federal levels come to their senses and make logical, effective changes in how those found guilty or who plead guilty to non-violent crimes are treated, we will continue to waste the lives of those unnecessarily behind bars, not getting the mental health or drug treatment they need, often being set up to fail after being released from jail.

An approach that focuses on incarceration is also a huge waste of money. Kentucky spent $570.5 million dollars on state corrections in fiscal year 2017, while 41% of offenders returned to custody within two years of release in 2016, according to the Kentucky CJPAC Justice Reinvestment Work Group.

If you’re under investigation or have been accused of a crime and have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Carman Law Firm, based in Lexington, Kentucky. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, skilled representation. Call today at (859) 838-1415 or fill our online contact form to find out how we can help you.