ABA to House: Reduce “Overcriminalization,” Save Money, Improve Lives


Citing the $6.6 billion budget to run federal prisons, William Shepherd, chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, told a House panel today that, “Incarceration has been proven to have a negative impact on future income, employment prospect, and family involvement. Reducing overcriminalization saves taxpayer money and improves the lives of all citizens.” In its first hearing on overcriminalization, a House task force was to hear from the Heritage Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger. In prepared remarks, Shepherd said, “After decades of expansive federal action, experts estimate that there are now more than 4,500 separate federal criminal statutes that are scattered throughout the federal code without any coherent organization. There is also widespread recognition that the result of decades of expansion of federal crime has resulted in the criminalization of behavior that often lacks criminal intent (mens rea) and would better be managed by civil fines or other non-criminal sanctions.” [A previous version of this story misidentified Shepherd as the ABA president.]

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