Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20
n September 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the largest piece of criminal justice legislation in U.S. history—the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, commonly known as the Crime Bill. It was, in part, a response to public anxiety about crime. It was riding the crest of a national tide. Crime was still near its peak, people were made to fear super predators, and states were reflexively adopting tough-on-crime legislation at a rapid pace. As President Clinton said at the time, “My fellow Americans, this is about freedom. Without responsibility, without order, without lawfulness, there is no freedom.”
Twenty years later, crime and specifically violent crime are down significantly. Domestic violence survivors have greater protections and community policing practices have been more broadly adopted. At the same time, major elements of the act—especially harsher sentencing requirements and incentives for states to adopt tough-on-crime laws—accelerated over-incarceration, growth of spending on prisons, and harm to communities, particularly to poor communities of color. Our federal prison population has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
“My fellow Americans, this is about freedom. Without responsibility, without order, without lawfulness, there is no freedom.”
—President Bill Clinton
Today, there is bipartisan recognition at both the state and federal level that our over-reliance on incarceration is in need of recalibration. The imperative to maintain low crime rates without imposing unnecessary burdens on communities or taxpayers is pronounced. At least 29 states have taken steps to roll back mandatory sentences, with 32 bills passed in just the last five years. And at the federal level, with broad bipartisan support, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which eased the disparity in penalties for drug offenses involving crack versus powder cocaine.
Congress is currently considering additional measures, including the Justice Safety Valve Act, the Smarter Sentencing Act, reauthorization of the Second Chance Act, and the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act. Also, the House Judiciary Committee reauthorized the bipartisan Over-criminalization Task Force; and the United States Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan independent agency in the judicial branch of government, unanimously voted this year to amend and apply retroactively a reduction in the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders.
Now is the time to reflect on the impact of this landmark legislation both to answer questions about its legacy and to inform the future of our nation’s criminal justice policy and practices. To initiate this critical conversation, we called upon the architects of the bill, its executors, and current leaders and thinkers to discuss the bill’s intentions and impact—and what these might mean for the next twenty years. Their voices can be found in an ongoing dialogue here on this multimedia platform. Tune in.
There at the Beginning
any years in the making, the Crime Bill passed with strong bipartisan support in an era when shocking random acts of violence dominated media coverage and fear of being the next victim gripped the nation. Its passage brought together a broad coalition of liberals and conservatives and galvanized scores of legislators, Congressional staffers, executive branch appointees, policymakers, state and local law enforcement officials, and lobbyists. Championed on the Hill by Congressman Jack Brooks of Texas and then-Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, it was implemented by a phalanx of people working at the federal, state, and local levels all across the country. Many of those involved in its crafting and implementation are now prominent criminal justice leaders.
Twenty years after the legislation—the most sweeping criminal justice legislation ever passed—much has changed. Crime, which had already begun to drop by 1994, is down significantly. Survivors of domestic violence have greater protections, and community policing practices are more broadly adopted. At the same time, the federal prison population has more than doubled while the state prison population has increased by more than 45 percent—largely because of harsher sentencing requirements and get-tough-on-crime incentives.
We asked those architects and implementers to share their insights on the mood of our country when it was passed, how it has transformed our society in ways expected and unexpected, and their vision for a path forward.
Creating the COPS office
“The COPS office wanted to encourage the concept of community-oriented policing, which really at its heart is trying to figure out ways to develop partnerships with the community to solve problems and to figure out where the police plug in—what do they own as part of the problem? And what can the community own as part of the problem?”
Crime Bill looked to politics, not research
“The Black Caucus was concerned because a lot of the provisions, in practice, adversely affect the black community disproportionately."
Criminal justice reform lessons learned
“It was a serpentine road to final passage.”
For more history on what lead up to the Crime Bill, read our full timeline.
The Violence Against Women Act
"My staff and I believed that the only way to change this culture was to expose it… But what gave life to what we were trying to do were the survivors who had the courage to testify."
Read the Vice President's full statement for Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20 here
Sign of the times
“The important starting point in thinking of the history of the act, is that it was born at a time of crisis, and the federal government responded.”
"For me, the bottom line on the Crime Bill is that it had its minuses but it also had its pluses...It led to the largest spending on criminal justice-related research in the nation's history."
Read Laurie Robinson's full statement for Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20 here
Bipartisanship then and now
“In the early 1990’s, crime was one of the most divisive and emotional issues in American politics. It was really tearing the two parties apart... It was amazing that in that context, they were able to come up with a bipartisan compromise… You so want for that spirit to be rekindled, and I think we are starting to see that in some ways.”
Perspectives on Punishment
n the 40 years since President Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs” in 1971, incarceration has evolved into the centerpiece of efforts in the United States to both control crime and punish wrongdoing. By the time the Crime Bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the die was cast: being “tough-on-crime” had become de rigueur for lawmakers regardless of party affiliation.
Rehabilitation and reintegration—once important goals of corrections policy—were neglected in favor of retribution and incapacitation. Three-strikes laws as well as mandatory and lengthy custodial penalties for an expanding list of offenses were the norm. The Crime Bill enshrined this trend on the federal level. And it accelerated it on the state level by incentivizing parole abolition and the adoption of truth-in-sentencing laws with funding for prison construction.
In 1972, 360,000 people were incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails; by 2003, the total incarcerated population surpassed two million, representing a more than 500 percent increase in a period when the U.S. population increased by just 37 percent. A prison a week was opened from 1985 to 2000. Today the United States is undisputedly the world’s leading jailer—just five percent of the world’s population, we hold close to 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. At more than 700 per 100,000 residents, the U.S. rate of incarceration is more than twice the rate of 90 percent of the world’s countries.
Released in April, the authoritative account of the growth and consequences of incarceration in the United States by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concludes that we have “gone past the point where the numbers of people in prison can be justified by social benefits [...] that the high rates of incarceration themselves constitute a source of injustice and, possibly, social harm.” And a previous NAS report on adolescent brain development determined that science should ground policies relating to youth, a departure from earlier super predator theories.
Indeed, the costs have been exorbitant, both in outright expenditures (in 2010, spending on corrections on the federal, state, and local levels topped $80 billion) and in the loss of generations of young men, particularly young men of color, to long prison sentences. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times, and Hispanics at nearly twice, the rate of whites. Not only are they lost to their families and communities for those years, but wide-ranging collateral consequences—from denial of voting rights and public benefits to housing and work restrictions—can follow them for many years after release, deeply impairing their ability to live productive and healthy lives, and build productive and healthy communities.
The power of storytelling
"When I heard that I could potentially do more prison time than someone who commits a violent offense—for my nonviolent drug offense—it was very surprising."
Time to be smart on crime
“We need a justice system that helps people move forward, away from a life of crime and back to a fulfilling life and a law-abiding life."
Higher education and prisons
“We once, in this country, saw education as a public good, because we understood the benefit that educating an individual provides to the greater whole.”
Individual and societal responsibility
"The wall between the prison and the community becomes porous.”
Taking a different course
"I know the kind of damage the prison system can do. I also know the possibilities and the realities that can happen when you provide services to people."
“We need to have a corrections system that corrects.”
Fear of crime and the prison build up
“It’s like Field of Dreams, ‘Build it and they will come.’ Build a prison and it will fill. And what they do is just widen the net of the people that are…pulled into the system.”
Cops and Communities
n the years before the Crime Bill’s passage, many Americans were questioning the efficacy of policing strategies, and not infrequently the motives of their local police. Crime rates throughout the 1970s and 1980s were rising, a phenomenon magnified by increased media attention. The beating of Rodney King in 1991, captured on film, put police brutality on an endless loop. The Los Angeles riots the following year illustrated massive anger, alienation, and frayed public trust.
Against this backdrop, lawmakers included federal funding for 100,000 new officers in the Crime Bill and created the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). COPS was authorized to distribute $8.8 billion in federal grants to fund initiatives and strategies designed to embrace the principles of community policing—an approach to achieving more effective police responses to crime and other public safety concerns through the pursuit and development of meaningful relationships and trust with the people they serve.
Since the Crime Bill’s passage, policing doubtlessly became more complicated when the post-9/11 era introduced domestic security and fighting terrorism as heightened priorities. Steadily dropping crime rates paradoxically intensified pressures to reduce rates further, giving way to overuse of aggressive strategies like stop, question, and frisk. And rapidly changing demographics and growing immigrant populations have created cultural challenges and language barriers in communities that have previously seen little diversity.
After 20 years, the impact of the bill’s influx of money and manpower remains uncertain. Recent events—from those in Ferguson, Missouri to New York City—demonstrate that mistrust between many communities, particularly minority ones, and law enforcement remains stubborn and deep, and that the promise of community policing remains to be fulfilled.
Technology and policing
“Law enforcement wants to understand what the bounderies are by which the citizens we police want us to police."
A rededication to community-police partnerships
“The number of citizens who are satisfied with policing in New Orleans has doubled."
Read Mayor Landrieu's full statement for Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20 here
“The most significant impact of the omnibus crime bill is that it institutionalized the community policing philosophy...The biggest benefit of all was that it created a generation of police leaders...government officials, and...community leaders who all understood and embraced the importance of that partnership concept.”
Policing diversified communities
“There is still work to be done, particularly when you look at the diversification of so many communities in this country.”
Confronting Violence Against Women
efore passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), there had been a growing drumbeat for improved justice responses to domestic and sexual violence since the 1970s, responses that would recognize the pain and trauma suffered by generations of women. Attackers were rarely held accountable for their actions, and the system offered few protections or services for victims living in constant fear. By the early 1990s, an extensive grassroots campaign by advocates and justice stakeholders—combined with a global focus on violence against women as a public health concern and human rights issue—had set the stage for VAWA’s initial drafting and eventual enactment.
A key provision of the Crime Bill, VAWA fundamentally changed how the justice system viewed and responded to violence against women and sent a clear message that women would no longer be made to suffer in silence for fear of adequate protection. The law strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and created a rape shield law, established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and ensured that women who had been victimized—and their families—would have access to the services they needed to rebuild their lives. VAWA—which also funded training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on the realities of domestic and sexual violence—has since been reauthorized by Congress multiple times, most recently in 2013.
In addition to VAWA, the Crime Bill provided for a series of additional victim protections, including allowing victims of federal sex crimes to testify at their attacker’s sentencing; strengthening requirements for sex offenders to pay restitution to their victims; and prohibiting firearm sales to or possession by individuals who are subject to domestic violence-related restraining orders. States were also required to create registers that tracked the whereabouts of individuals who have been convicted of a sex offense.
Twenty years later, there has been progress in the field. From 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67 percent, all states have passed laws making stalking a crime, and more victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police. Today the National Domestic Violence Hotline receives more than 22,000 calls per month, and 92 percent of callers report that it’s their first call for help.
VAWA has evolved as well, as protections now extend to victims of date rape and stalking, and the 2013 reauthorization closed critical gaps in services to previously underserved populations of women, including Native Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, women with disabilities, immigrants, college students, and public housing residents. The impact of these changes, however, remains to be seen.
Changing a culture of violence
"Right now, we still have one in four women who will, during their lifetimes, experience domestic violence. I want that number to go to zero."
Marking Twenty Years of VAWA
"If the last twenty years have shown us anything, it’s that VAWA works."
Read Senator Mikulski's full statement for Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20
The Bigger Picture
he rippling impact of the Crime Bill has touched on many things well beyond the conventionally understood boundaries of criminal justice—the economy, education, and public health systems, and the well-being and resilience of communities. It has shaped furious debate about guns, federalism, and the challenge of building trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. It is, however, perhaps the unintended—although not entirely unforeseeable—consequences of the bill’s sentencing provisions that have been most profound.
Prison spending is now the second fastest growing portion of increasingly strapped state budgets. Public funds that could have gone to running schools instead are going towards running prisons. The benefit in terms of reduced crime, the evidence shows, has been uncertain. Eighty billion spent annually for little return does not compute on either side of the aisle, but notably has generated substantial outrage on the Right.
Far too many children are growing up with a parent behind bars. From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with incarcerated fathers increased from about 350,000 to 2.1 million; and with women’s incarceration increasing at nearly twice the rate of men, more children than ever are being separated from their mothers.
Public health experts document how the ubiquity of incarceration takes a literal toll on the health of these children and their communities. Faith-based leaders preach about the moral wrongs wrought by incarceration and the necessity of reclaiming communities.
Many of the consequences affect a limited number of communities, primarily poor and of color. But they are corrosive and—through collateral consequences that reduce educational, employment and civic opportunities—they are also corrosive to society at large. Business leaders express growing concern about the impact on our future workforce, which will be increasingly people of color.
The 1994 Crime Bill did not cause all of this. But it did play a role.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last year, “As a society, we pay too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver outcomes that deter and punish crime, keep us safe, and ensure that those who have paid their debts have the chance to become productive citizens.”
The evidence also clearly shows that this era of rapidly rising incarceration is unprecedented—both in our nation’s and the world’s history.
Perhaps in twenty years we will look back and say it was just that—an era.
Public opinion on criminal justice reform
“This is a moment where Americans are ready for big, transformative change.”
Creating a social movement
“That's the way change happens. It's the dovetailing of research, evidence, and advocacy with activism."
Children of incarcerated parents
“There are 2.7 million children annually who are impacted by the incarceration of a parent.”
“We’ve lost sight of the fact that there are human beings on both sides of the equation.”
Public health and mass incarceration
“The pursuit of public health and public safety are not mutually exclusive.”
A faith-based perspective
"Faith leaders bring a particular worldview of how you see people. Are they a problem, or a promise?"
On economic potential
"In terms of prisoner reentry, there's no doubt in my mind that if we invested a lot more in effective reentry—basic education, psychological counseling, job training—that the payoff would be enormous."
Beyond cost containment
“People say ‘let’s reduce the size of government’[…] there is no bigger government than a prison.”
Community after incarceration
“It’s easy to think about the impact [of incarceration] on the individuals, that’s immediate. What we often don’t think about is the impact on families and the impact on communities.”
From the launch of the War on Drugs in 1971 to the more than 700% growth in the prison population four decades later, trace the major legislation, events, and statistics related to the genesis and implementation of the 1994 Crime Bill.
1971 – President Nixon launches the War on Drugs, declaring drug abuse to be “public enemy number one.”
1973 – New York’s “Rockefeller Drug Laws” signed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, establishing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.
October 12, 1984 – Comprehensive Crime Control Act establishes a federal sentencing commission and eliminates parole for the federal prison system.
1984 – The state of Washington enacts the first truth-in-sentencing law, requiring violent offenders to serve most of their sentences in prison.
October 27, 1986 – The Anti-Drug Abuse Act establishes mandatory minimums for federal drug offenses and institutes the 100:1 crack-to-powder cocaine sentencing ratio.
1991 – U.S. Sentencing Commission releases study documenting the racial disparities caused by mandatory minimum sentencing. The overall crime rate in the U.S. reaches its peak.
1993 – First “three strikes and you’re out” law passed in the state of Washington. Television coverage of crime more than doubles from 1992 to 1993.
October 26, 1993 – The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (“Crime Bill”) is first introduced by Representative Jack Brooks (D-Texas).
January 25, 1994 – President Clinton’s second State of the Union address devotes nearly all of its 14 final paragraphs (15 percent of the total speech) to crime, and promotes the passage of the Crime Bill itself.
August 11, 1994 – U.S. House of Representatives rejects the Crime Bill due to Republican and Democrat opposition to various parts of it, most notably the expansion of death penalty provisions and the assault weapon ban. Eleven out of 38 members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against the bill because a provision to allow prisoners to challenge their death sentences by using statistics (the Racial Justice Act) was removed in committee, and in protest against the expansion of death penalty-eligible offenses.
August 21, 1994 – The House passes a new version of the Crime Bill with $3.3 billion cut from original package—two-thirds of it from prevention programs. A provision was added that made accusations of past sexual offenses admissible in court testimony, and a provision was removed that would have made 16,000 low-level drug offenders eligible for early release.
November 8, 1994 – California passes Proposition 184, a three-strikes law that doubled the penalty for a second felony conviction if the first conviction was serious or violent, and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life for any third felony. The law passed with nearly 72 percent of the vote.
1994 – The total U.S. prison population increases by 9.1 percent between 1993 and 1994, reaching 1,016,760.
1995 – The total COPS Office appropriation for fiscal year 1995 is $1.3 billion, up from $148.4 million in fiscal year 1994. A total of 25,000 new officers are funded.
In the past two years, almost half of states have passed some form of a three-strikes law.
1997 – Twenty-seven states have passed truth-in-sentencing laws and, as a result, received a total of $234.9 million in federal truth-in-sentencing grants.
1998 – Percentage of victims reporting intimate partner violence has grown to 59 percent from 48 percent in 1993.
May 1999 – COPS funds its 100,000th community policing professional.
October 28, 2000 – The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is reauthorized for the first time. It included additional related crimes of dating violence and stalking, created legal assistance program for victims, promoted supervised visitation program for families experiencing violence, and protected victims of trafficking by establishing U and T-visas.
2000 – Sixteen states have now abolished release from prison by discretionary parole.
Since 1985, state and federal governments have opened one new prison per week.
2001 – The Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) grant program, created by the Crime Bill, expires after more than $2.7 billion is spent out of the more than $3 billion that was originally appropriated for the program. All 50 states eventually participated in the program and received some amount of grant money.
2002 – Michigan eliminates mandatory sentences for most drug offenses.
2004 – Federal assault weapon ban expires due to sunset provision and is not renewed.
2005 – VAWA is reauthorized for the second time; this version includes provisions to create the Sexual Assault Services Program—the first federal funding stream to direct services for victims of sexual assault.
2006 – More than half the number of prisons currently in use were built in the previous 20 years.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance launches the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a project that works with states to cut spending on incarceration and reinvest savings in practices that improve safety and hold offenders accountable.
2007 – A projection in Texas indicates that 17,000 more prison beds are needed at a cost of $2 billion. Lawmakers instead opt to spend an eighth of that cost, $241 million, on treatment-oriented programs for nonviolent offenders and in-prison treatment programs.
2008 – U.S. reaches peak prison population at 2,307,500 federal and state inmates. A total of 770,000 people work in the corrections sector—by comparison, 880,000 workers are in the U.S. auto industry.
2009 – New York State modifies the Rockefeller Drug Laws by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and significantly restoring judges’ ability to order treatment and rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
2010 – The rate of intimate partner violence has declined 67 percent since 1993.
Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) reduces sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1.
Right on Crime, an organization serving as a source for conservative-led criminal justice reform, is founded.
2011 – U.S. Sentencing Commission votes to retroactively apply new FSA sentencing guidelines to individuals sentenced before the law was enacted.
2012 – California revises its three-strikes law, limiting the imposition of a life sentence to cases in which the third felony conviction is for a serious or violent crime. At least 17 states and the federal government have partially repealed or lessened the severity of mandatory sentences.
The number of admissions to federal and state prisons—609,800—is the lowest number since 1999.
2013 – Since 2000, 29 states have taken steps to roll back mandatory sentences. And since 2009, more than 30 states have reformed their drug laws.
In the past 20 years, the overall rate of violent crime in the U.S. has declined more than 70 percent.
March 7, 2013 – VAWA reauthorized for a third time. New provisions include the recognition of tribes’ power to prosecute both Native American and non-Native Americans who assault Native American spouses.
January 17, 2014- The 2014 federal fiscal budget includes $28 million, up from $6 million in 2013, to support new states participating in JRI and to enhance implementation efforts in states that are already participating.
April 30, 2014- The National Academy of Sciences releases a comprehensive report titled “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States,” which argues that the United States has gone past the point where the level of incarceration can be justified by social benefits and in fact now constitutes a source of injustice and social harm. The report also recommends changes in sentencing, prison, social policies to reduce the nation's over-reliance on incarceration.
2014- Total COPS Office appropriation for fiscal year 2014 is down to $214 million, from a high of $1.633 billion in 1998.
Twenty-two states have joined the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to reduce their spending on incarceration.
Texas’ incarceration rate has fallen 20 percent since 2007, when it opted out of constructing new prisons in favor of treatment programs, and its crime rate is at its lowest since 1968.
July 18, 2014- U.S. Sentencing commission votes unanimously to apply a recent reduction in the sentencing guideline levels retroactively, making 42,290 offenders eligible for their cases to be reviewed by a judge beginning in 2015.
September 13, 2014- Twentieth anniversary of the 1994 Crime Bill. Congress is currently considering the following criminal-justice related legislation: the Smarter Sentencing Act, the Justice Safety Value Act, the reauthorization of the Second Chance Act, and the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act.
September 16, 2014- The Bureau of Justice Statistics releases a report showing that in 2013, the state prison population rose for the first time since 2008, and the federal prison population declined for the first time since 1980. For the first time since 2009, the total number of admissions to prisons was larger than releases. The result was an overall increase in prison population in the United States after three consecutive years of decline.
era thanks all the participants of Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20
- THERE AT THE BEGINNING -
Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States
Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College, City University of New York
Laurie Robinson, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Criminology, Law & Society, George Mason University
Adam Gelb, Director, Public Safety Performance Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Ron Weich, Dean, University of Baltimore School of Law
Bobby Scott, U.S. Representative, Virginia's 3rd District
Kristen Mahoney, Deputy Director for Policy, Bureau of Justice Assistance
- PERSPECTIVES ON PUNISHMENT -
Pat Nolan, Director, Center for Criminal Justice Reform, the American Conservative Union Foundation
John Wetzel, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Stanley Richards, Senior Vice President, The Fortune Society
Glenn Loury, Professor, Brown University
Fred Patrick, Director, Pathways Project, Vera Institute of Justice
Mike Lee, U.S. Senator, Utah
Piper Kerman, Author, Orange is the New Black
- COPS AND COMMUNITIES -
Mitch Landrieu, Mayor, New Orleans
Bill Bratton, Commissioner, New York Police Department
Susan Shah, Project Director, Vera Institute of Justice
Richard Stanek, Sheriff, Hennepin County, Minnesota
- CONFRONTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN -
Barbara A. Mikulski, U.S. Senator and Chairwoman, Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee
Kim Gandy, President and CEO, National Network to End Domestic Violence
- THE BIGGER PICTURE -
Gara LaMarche, President, Democracy Alliance
Alan Jenkins, Executive Director, The Opportunity Agenda
Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, PolicyLink
Marc Levin, Founder, Right on Crime
Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and Former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
David Cloud, Senior Program Associate, Substance Use and Mental Health Program, Vera Institute of Justice
Craig DeRoche, President, Justice Fellowship
Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D, Vice President, Outreach and Educational Practices, Sesame Workshop
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The Path Forward Event
On March 10, 2015, Vera convened a public forum called Justice in Focus: A Path Forward, whose 15 participants and five panels pivoted from the legacy of the Crime Bill and its contribution to the current state of our criminal justice system to how we can move forward in a bipartisan fashion. We now invite you a look at what we learned at the event and in the past 6 months.
The Big Picture: E.J. Dionne, Jr. of the Washington Post and Brookings Institution moderated a conversation on the economic impact of incarceration between Robert Rubin, Co-Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Vera President and Director Nicholas Turner.
- Watch the video of Robert Rubin’s perspective for Justice in Focus on the economical potential of investing in reentry.
- Read the Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored by Nick Turner and Robert Rubin on the steep cost of America’s high incarceration rate.
Police and the Community: Laurie Robinson, co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, sat down with NPR’s Carrie Johnson to talk about opportunities for improving police-community relations—from new technology options to cultural shifts—and discussed some of the findings of the President’s task force.
- Read Laurie Robinson’s statement for Justice in Focus on the research funding spurred by the Crime Bill.
- Read and listen to Carrie Johnson’s NPR coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Crime Bill.
Firsthand Experiences: Stanley Richards of the Fortune Society and Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship talked with Fred Patrick, director of Vera's Center on Sentencing and Corrections, about their experiences as actors in the criminal justice system, and now as advocates for reform through reentry and restorative justice efforts.
- Watch Stanley Richard’s perspective for Justice in Focus on opting out of a punishment-only criminal justice model.
- Watch Craig DeRoche’s perspective for Justice in Focus on pursing restorative justice.
- Watch Fred Patrick’s perspective for Justice in Focus on the promise of higher education in prisons.
Leading on Criminal Justice: Senator Cory Booker sits down for a keynote interview with Bill Keller, editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project. Senator Booker spoke about what aspect of criminal justice reform he’d most like to see, taking a broad-based versus piece-by-piece legislative approach, and what agenda advice he’d give to a future presidential candidate.
- Read our blog post about the interview and Senator Booker’s REDEEM act.
The Policy Opportunity: New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman moderated a panel with William Ruger of the Charles Koch Institute, Norman Reimer of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Michael Mitchell of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Vikrant Reddy of Right on Crime. The four panelists shared policy success stories—from Texas to California—and the “low hanging fruit” in the reform movement.
- Listen to Right on Crime’s Marc Levin’s perspective on Justice in Focus on the conservative approach to criminal justice reform.