Robin Vander Wall
Kurt, we appreciate your perspective and are happy to publish it here. But NARSOL stands with most civil rights organizations in America holding the view that there has been an unprecedented and dramatic increase in the numbers of citizens incarcerated over the past three decades. There are many Americans from all sides of the ideological perspective who feel that we, as a nation, are addicted to the use of prisons as tool in combating serious crime. Statistics demonstrate that our use of prisons for the “correction” of less serious crimes (which constitutes the majority of crime for which people are currently incarcerated) is costly, ineffective, and draconian. Certainly, people who commit serious offenses deserve to be punished in accordance with the seriousness of their offense. But, with nearly 700,000 people coming out of prison each year, it’s apparent to many people that most of these individuals probably never committed a crime serious enough to be incarcerated for in the first place. There is also strong evidence that the overall increase in longer sentences for less serious crimes has placed many defendants in the position of pleading guilty to crimes they may not be guilty of committing for fear of going to trial, getting convicted, and ending up with a unusually stiff punishment. Criminal justice reform across all categories of offense is needed and we are committed to advancing that goal insofar as it is germane to our primary areas of advocacy.