America’s criminal justice system needs some reform, says Connecticut lawyer Brian Moran. It costs taxpayers too much, it fails to rehabilitate prisoners, and it exacts a lifelong toll on offenders with no offsetting benefit. He explains his views in his book “The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream.”
Moran explains that America’s prison population has grown from 300,000 in 1980 to about 2,000,000 at present. Today, about 2% of America’s working-age men are behind bars, most for non-violent offenses, giving the country the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world. Unfortunately, taking this tough stance on crime has come at quite a societal cost. Much of this growth is related to the War on Drugs. Moran doesn’t fault the early efforts of this initiative, but after the drugs were largely under control, the sentencing grew more draconian, and as drug use decreased, the punishment of offenders boomed. Things like California’s three strikes law and other mandatory minimum sentencing plan have all been part of the problem, including heavy punishments for non-violent crimes.
Another problem is the disparity between the incarceration of Caucasians and of blacks, Hispanics, or other minorities. Moran notes that, in Connecticut, blacks and Hispanics make up about 66% of the prison population but only 24% of the state’s population. Moran points out that there are also disparities between the numbers for cities and for suburbs. The premise of “The Justice Imperative” is that society would be better served, in the case of offenders with no history of violence, by trying to treat these people rather than imprisoning them.
Moran also cites the problem of treating juveniles as adults. He notes that Connecticut has improved its handling of juveniles by increasing the age at which they can be prosecuted as adults. In many states, however, this is not the case.
Moran suggest that Texas is a state whose efforts to reform its prisons are worth study by other states. Texas has emphasized rehabilitation. One of the results has been a decrease in its prison population, once the largest in the country. Texas either had to build three new prisons or improve their probation system.
Brian E. Moran is a partner in the law firm of Robinson + Cole LLP. He is a civil litigator specializing in antitrust, intellectual property, licensing and other commercial disputes. He has co-written two business books, “The Executive’s Antitrust Guide To Pricing: Understanding Implications of Typical Marketing, Distribution and Pricing Practices” (2013), published by Thomson Reuters, and “E-Counsel: The Executive’s Legal Guide to Electronic Commerce” (2000). He is the founder of The Success Foundation, a non-profit that has run summer study programs on college campuses for low-income ninth graders with college potential. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.