Parole and reentry system under fire, is reform in the future?

The prison system is designed to meet two needs: punishment and rehabilitation. Critics of federal criminal charges argue that the system takes the role of punishment too far. Not only are those who are convicted of nonviolent drug possession charges eligible for long sentences but they also cannot receive parole.

Background of parole in the US federal system.

Parole can provide an opportunity for authorities to reduce an overcrowded prison population. However, the ability to offer parole for those who are guilty of federal crimes was abolished in the eighties with the Sentencing Reform Act. This Act has often faced criticism and is currently under fire.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is one prominent figure pushing for reform. Attorney General Holder argues that the current criminal justice system may exacerbate problems of “”poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps”” in American society. He called for prosecutors to join him in changing this trend at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, a group of legal professionals. During his remarks, he called prosecutors to consider abstaining from filing federal charges for nonviolent federal drug crimes in various situations, such as when the alleged offender is not affiliated with a gang.

If federal charges are filed and the alleged offender is charged with the crime, he or she could face sentences of decades or even life imprisonment. It is argued that these individuals are more likely to benefit from diversion programs like drug treatment and community service initiatives as opposed to a life of confinement.

Is change on the horizon?

Holder is not the only one calling for change. Change is also being considered at the Congressional level. A bill was introduced in November of 2013 that would provide additional support. The bill, called the Second Chance Act, would expand reentry programs for an additional five years. Examples of programs offered under this bill include mentoring, substance abuse, parole and probation.

According to the Association of State Correctional Administrators, if passed the bill would reduce recidivism or the likelihood of those released from prison to reoffend. As a result, the bill could potentially address the problem of overcrowded prisons while also ensuring those who are released have the tools they need to succeed.

What these means for those charged with crimes.

Those charged with federal crimes should take the charges seriously. As noted above, if convicted sentencing can be harsh.

Various defenses are available for those charged with federal crimes. Contact an experienced federal defense lawyer to discuss your case and better ensure your legal rights are protected.