The federal criminal justice system’s “one-size-fits-all approach and the warehousing of prisoners is proving to not only be dangerous to public safety but an unthoughtful misuse of precious taxpayer dollars,” former Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. The federal prison population, 24,000 as recently as the 1970s, more than doubled in the 1980s, to 58,000, and more than doubled again in the 1990s, to 134,000. it now is nearly a quarter-million prisoners–and will increase by an estimated 11,500 in the next year, Tolman noted.
Tolman, who formerly worked in the Senate for Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, noted that Texas and other states had been able to reduce the number of prisoners by better use of risk assessment tools and non-prison sentences. “While many details must be addressed in fashioning a solution to the current federal incarceration and budget problem, the foundation for meaningful reform already exists in the responses made by states who arrived at such crossroads far earlier,” Tolman said. Also testifying before the committee were Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis and Jeffrey Sedgwick, head of the Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Statistics during the George W. Bush presidency.