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Changes in Punishment: “Ban the Box” and More

Crime & Punishment coverTwo recent NYTimes’ articles highlight a larger and significant shift in penal policy in the United States:

  • various legislative measures to “Ban the Box” that otherwise require job applicants to disclose any criminal history:  ““There’s been a shift in people away from wanting to get even,” said Marc A. Levin, the policy director for Right on Crime, a conservative anti-crime group in Texas. “People are focused now on getting results. It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it’s from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.”
  • and a return to greater prosecutorial discretion in charging decisions and sentence recommendations (to charge lesser offenses and reduced sentences) for drug crimes–at least at the federal level.  “Since 1980, the general [U.S.] population has grown by a third, but the federal prison population is nearly nine times as large as it was then, according to the Justice Department. Much of that growth flowed from “tough on crime” policies like mandatory minimums, which condemned small fish in the drug food chain to stiff penalties that even judges could not bend.”

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