Letter to the U.S. Sentencing Commission regarding the Inclusion of a Sentencing Departure for Successful Alternatives to Incarceration
The City Bar’s Task Force on Mass Incarceration (John F. Savarese, Chair) wrote a letter to the United States Sentencing Commission urging it to amend the federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual to authorize a downward departure for judge-involved intensive presentence supervision programs. With over two million people in prison, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world—a practice which is now recognized to have wreaked substantial human and societal costs in the form of ruined lives and weakened communities, as well as the staggering monetary cost of housing our enormous prison population. Alternative to incarceration programs—i.e., presentence programs designed to result in sentences not involving incarceration—can and do reduce the number of people sent to prison. And, importantly, they work—as proven by many defendants who have participated in such programs and turned their lives around. More than one-third of defendants who successfully completed one of the two alternative to incarceration programs in the Eastern District of New York have had the charges against them dismissed, and successes can be seen throughout the twenty-two federal programs operating across the country. Similar state programs have also proven successful, with seventy-five percent of graduates from drug court programs remaining arrest-free for at least two years after leaving the program. The success of these programs, at both the state and federal level, should be reflected in the Guidelines Manual.