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Smart on Crime: Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2013
8 pages
The package of Federal criminal justice system reforms presented - called the U.S. Justice Department's "Smart on Crime" initiative - aims to produce a criminal justice system that is fair, efficient, and effective.
The first of five principles of "Smart on Crime" is to prioritize prosecutions of the most serious cases. This involves protecting the public from national-security threats, violent crime, and financial fraud, as well as crimes that threaten the most vulnerable members of society. In addressing these priorities, the U.S. Attorney General is requiring the development of district-specific guidelines for determining when Federal prosecutions should be brought. This means allocating resources for fewer, but the most significant, cases instead emphasizing a greater volume of cases. The second principle is to reform sentencing so as to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overburdened prisons. This principle recognizes that prisons are being filled to capacity at a heavy cost to taxpayers and inmates and their families. A high proportion of inmates are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. The Attorney General is announcing a change in Justice Department charging policies so that draconian mandatory minimum sentences are not used for low-level, non-violent drug offenses. The third principle reinforces this effort by emphasizing the development of alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes. Suggested alternatives are drug courts, other specialty courts, or diversion programs. The fourth principle is to improve reentry in order to reduce repeat offenses and re-victimization. In order to implement this principle locally, the Justice Department is recommending that U.S. attorneys designate a prevention and reentry coordinator within their offices, who will focus on prevention and reentry efforts. The fifth principle is to prioritize resource allocations for preventing and protecting vulnerable populations. Implementation of this principle features updated anti-violence strategies specific to each district.