Congressional, Outside Critics Focus On “Overcriminalization”


“We must put an end to the notion that we need to prosecute every individual for every perceived offense,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), whose House crime subcommittee last week held its second hearing on overcriminalization. “We continue to lock up people for offenses that should not even require incarceration.” McClatchy Newspapers say legal experts cite more than 4,450 federal crimes and as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced criminally. From 2000 to 2007, Congress created 452 entirely new crimes, said Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation.

“It used to be a grave statement to say someone was making a ‘federal case’ out of something,” Walsh told lawmakers. “Today, although the penalties are severe and frequently harsh, the underlying conduct punished is often laughable.” Support for cutting back the tangle of laws and regulations is strong among what Scott calls “seemingly odd political bedfellows” – the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank; the American Civil Liberties Union; Edwin Meese, attorney general under President Ronald Reagan; liberal Democrats and traditional law-and-order Republicans who chafe at a plethora of federal regulations, many of which carry prison time.

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