Rehabilitative Earn-Out Sentencing Time (REST)
Time-Based Sentencing is what we have today. It means that when a person is convicted of a crime, he or she is given a term of incarceration. That person goes to prison, and then gets released after the time has expired. There are very few incentives for the inmate to correct his or her behavior. It is merely a “time-out” for adults.
Since criminals earn their way to prison, shouldn’t they be required to “earn” their way out of prison? This would require a series of objectives or tasks to be completed and a series of skills to be acquired before he or she can be released. This helps in rehabilitating the criminal and make sure that the person exiting prison is better than he or she was when he or she entered prison. But how would this work?
Post-Conviction, Pre-Sentencing Psychological Evaluation
As a part of the Pre-Sentencing Evaluation, the newly convicted person would undergo a thorough psychological evaluation to determine the convict’s atavistic score. This means that we would have a better idea of the convict’s ability to be rehabilitated. If he or she rates really high on the atavistic scale, he or she is so damaged that rehabilitation would be highly unlikely, resulting in a sentencing term of natural life because this is a person that would be a danger to society, no matter how much we attempt to rehabilitate him or her.
The vast majority of criminals would not be this high. Most would score much lower and that score would give the sentencing judge an idea of how much rehabilitation would be needed. The higher the score, the more rehabilitation needed for that particular convict.
During sentencing, the convict would be given a minimum sentence that must be served at 100% of that time. The convict would also receive a list of objectives, rehabilitative training, and tasks that need to be completed and a list of skills that need to be acquired before the convict can begin the release process (step-down re-entry). If the convict gets to the end of his or her minimum sentence, but has not completed everything on the sentencing list, he or she is not eligible to begin the release process. The actual term in prison will be up to the convict. The longer he or she takes to complete the sentencing list, the longer he or she will be incarcerated. There would not be any maximum sentences. The maximum is set by the convict and his or her commitment to rehabilitation.
Release Process (Step-Down Re-Entry)
Once the inmate has completed the minimum sentence AND everything on the sentencing list, he or she will be released to a half-way house. Again, the convict will have a list of additional objectives and tasks to complete and additional skills to be acquired in order to proceed in the process. During this time, the convict is allowed more visits from loved ones, a regular job, a monitored cell phone, and more freedom of movement. But, there is a curfew and the convict is still closely guarded, just not 24/7 like in prison.
Once the convict has accomplished all of those tasks, objectives, and skills, he or she will go to home-monitoring. This allows the convict to live with family, have a later curfew, and periodic monitoring. There are additional objectives and tasks that need to be completed at this level and additional skills need to be acquired. This is the final test to see whether the convict has rehabilitated and is successfully assimilating back into society as a productive member of society.
The final stage is release from the home monitoring, but with a requirement that the now “ex-con” continues individual counseling and group therapy to keep him or her on the correct path. This is where the ex-con will be in the greatest danger of “falling off the wagon”, so follow-up support is desperately needed during this time. Eventually, the ex-con will not be required to continue the counseling sessions but this will be at the discretion of the counselors. However, the ex-con will always have the counseling available if, and when, he or she needs it. This is very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction programs. We must recognize that criminality is an addiction of sorts. We must provide support to those who are feeling the temptation to regress back into a life of crime.
Amend Controlled Substances Bill
We have some drugs listed as Schedule I drugs that are not as harmful as we once thought. There are other drugs that are listed as Schedule IV drugs that are much more harmful than we originally thought. We need to convene a drug council to bring in experts, scientists, pharmacists, and the public to have an open discussion as to the effects of the drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act. Many of these drugs need to be reclassified, based on updated research.
Marijuana is one that should definitely be moved from Schedule I to Schedule IV (making it legal, but controlled) or removed entirely because it does have significant medical purposes and is much less harmful than many of the OTC (over-the-counter) medications on the market today. A compromise could be that marijuana with less than 0.3% THC (the substance that causes a “high”) would be legal over the counter, but marijuana with more than 0.3% THC would only be available with a prescription. This would make marijuana legal in all 50 states.
Some pain medication is so physically addictive that the patient needs another medication to combat the severe withdrawal symptoms when the patient is weening off of the pain medication. These pain medications are highly dangerous and addictive; some have even been linked to suicide.
PREFERRED AMENDMENT TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
In June 1971, President Richard Nixon declares a “War on Drugs” and identifies drugs as “public enemy No.1”. In 1984, First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Their “war on drugs” is still continuing today. How is the war on drugs working?
40 Years + $1 TRILLION = FAILURE
Some of the headlines from various sources:
“U.S. Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals: After 40 years and $1 trillion, drug use is rampant and violence pervasive” – NBC News
“Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War ‘Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals’” – Huffington Post
“War on Drugs a Trillion-Dollar Failure” - CNN
“Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs” – CATO Institute
DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has a FY2019 budget of $2.8622 Billion! Of the more than 1.6 million drug arrests in 2017 (typical average since 1995), 85.4% (1,394,515) of them are for possession, and 14.6% for the sale of manufacturing of a drug. This provides a lot of data for us to think about. Drugs arrests fluctuate from year to year, but have remained pretty steady at about 1.5 – 1.6 million arrests per year for the past 25 years. It does not look like drug use is declining.
Quite the contrary. In 1999, there were 16,849 drug overdose deaths in the United States. That number has steadily increased through 2017 (most current year of data), when there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States. In July 1999, the U.S. population was 273 million. In December 2017, the U.S. population was 326 million. The drug-related deaths have quadrupled at a time when our population has increased by only 19%. The deaths from opioids has gone from 8,048 to 47,600; 3,442 to 17,029 for prescriptions; 1,960 to 15,482 for heroin; 547 to 10,333 for psychostimulants (including Methamphetamine); 3,822 to 13,942 for cocaine; and 1,135 to 11,537 for Benzodiazepines.
Also, the vast majority of drug arrests are for possession, not selling or manufacturing drugs. It looks like we are going after the drug addicts more than the drug dealers and cartels. The drug users and addicts are victims in this mess. Arresting them and slapping them with a criminal record is not going to do anything to cure their addiction. It just makes their situation even more unbearable.
The War on Drugs has resulted in an explosion in arrests, courts flooded with drug cases, prisons overflowing, more than a $1 TRILLION of taxpayer money being wasted, more and more drug-related deaths each year, and no end in sight. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who can state that the War on Drugs has been a success. By every metric, it has been an absolute failure. Can the war on drugs even be won?
No, it can’t until we admit that we are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Then, and only then, can we change our view and stand a chance at actually solving the problem. As much as it nauseates me to admit it, the most logical and reasonable solution is to legalize all drugs, but still consider them “controlled substances” that need to be regulated with government oversight.
Two things will happen immediately once drugs are legalized. The first is that the government will finally be able to control and regulate the drug market, ensuring that the drugs being sold are not altered (“laced”) with unknown substances that can make the drug even more dangerous. The government can also begin research into making the drugs better and safer. For instance, marijuana can be made extremely safe and medically beneficial by eliminating (or nearly eliminating) the amount of THC in it. Even if we cannot do that with other drugs, we can possibly make it safer and see more medical benefits of many of these drugs. We may even be able to control the addictiveness of these drugs.
The second thing that will happen immediately once drugs are legalized is that the government can TAX it. Instead of throwing trillions of dollars down the drain, we can have more money coming into our government. But, don’t get too excited yet. That money NEEDS to go into building, maintaining, and operating long-term treatment facilities for addicts. I would only support the legalization IF the verbiage of the bill ensures that the revenue will ONLY go to long-term treatment facilities. This is a deal-breaker for me.
One of the biggest obstacles people face once they are addicted is that they cannot afford the more effective long-term treatment programs and facilities. At best, they are able to get into cheap short-term programs that have very high failure (relapse) rates. By taxing drugs, the government will finally have a revenue stream to funnel into real, long-term, and highly effective treatment centers all around the nation so we can actually CURE the disease of addiction once a person is ready to get that treatment.
Another huge bonus is that gangs will be starved of their primary income source. But, this bonus benefit has its dark side. They will just find other ways to make money, probably increasing human trafficking, so we need to be on guard and ready to combat that issue as well.
Another great benefit to legalizing drugs is that we can take the production and sale of drugs out of the shadows and put those “drug dealers” to work in labs that are producing safer recreational drugs. This gives the former illegal drug dealer a legitimate job, earning legitimate pay, which can then be taxed as taxable income. Again, making this a profitable venture, while funneling the majority of the revenue to treatment programs and actually curing the problem.
There is no way to truly legislate our way out of the drug business. If laws were all that were needed to control human behavior, we would not have any murders in the United States. We can make it more difficult and less appealing to engage in certain behavior and reward desirable behavior, but in the end, this is a free nation and people are free to make their own choices – whether good or bad.
In the end, the solution requires us to look at the addict as a patient, not a criminal. They need our compassion, mercy, and assistance. They need us to bridge that gap between addiction and recovery, not block their path to recovery with prison time.
 NBC News, Mendoza, Bartha, Associated Press, May 13, 2010, U.S. Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/37134751/ns/us_news-security/t/us-drug-war-has-met-none-its-goals/#.XBfmNGhKjIU, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Huffington Post, Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War ‘Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals’, Armentano, Paul and Earleywine, Mitch, May 14, 2010, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-armentano/associated-press-after-40_b_575483.html, accessed December 17, 2018.
 CNN, War on Drugs a Trillion-Dollar Failure, Branson, Richard, December 7, 2012, https://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs/, accessed December 17, 2018.
 CATO Institute, Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs, Coyne, Christopher J., and Hall, Abigail R., April 12, 2017, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/four-decades-counting-continued-failure-war-drugs, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), https://www.justice.gov/jmd/page/file/1033151/download, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Drug War Facts, “Total Annual Arrests in the US by Type of Offense”, https://www.drugwarfacts.org/node/235#, accessed December 17, 2018, citing “Crime in the United States 2017 – Arrests,” FBI Uniform Crime Report (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, September 2018), p. 1, and Arrest Table: Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/persons-arrested, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/arrest-table; also citing “Crime in the United States -2000,” FBI Uniform Crime Reports (Washington, DC: US Governmental Printing Office, 2001), p. 216, Tables 29 and 4.1., http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2000/toc00.pdf.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse, Overdose Death Rates, https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates, accessed February 1, 2019.
Criminal Justice Diagnostic Report
In 2017, the cost of incarceration per inmate in the federal prisons was $36,299.25 per year. The cost of confinement in a Residential Re-entry Center was $32,309.80. It is much cheaper (11% cheaper) to confine inmates in Residential Re-entry Centers.
In 2016, the 2,162,400 inmates incarcerated in the United States, cost an average of $33,274 per inmate per year, creating a combined cost of over $42.8 BILLION per year (for 45 of the 50 states)! In Illinois alone, there are 47,622 inmates costing $33,507 per inmate per year. This costs the Illinois taxpayers a total of $1,595,647,075 per year! That’s $1.5 BILLION per year! There are only 5 states that pay more per year to incarcerate people. There are only 6 states that incarcerate more people.
The average cost per citizen is $137 per year. That doesn’t sound like much until you calculate your household’s cost. If you have 4 people in your household, that’s an annual cost of $548 (137 * 4) for the household. One would hope that all of that money would be producing some great results.
“At least 95% of all state prisoners will be released from prison at some point”. Of those released back into our communities, 43.9% were arrested at least once during their first year after release, 83.4% (5 out of 6) of state prisoners released in 2005 were arrested again within 9 years of their release.  That’s a pretty high failure rate. Would that be allowed to continue if this were any other business.
Let’s replace Corrections System with Ford Motor Company and see what the result would be. If 95% of the Ford vehicles made were sold and of those sold, 44% had break failures within the first year, and 83% had break failures within 9 years, would it be acceptable to the public? Of course not! There would be Congressional hearings DAILY to fix this massive problem and there would be a race to protect the American public. For every former inmate who recidivates (commits another crime), there are innocent American citizens being victimized. Where is the outcry? Where is the outrage?
It is time to admit that our “correctional” facilities are NOT correcting anything. If anything, our “correctional” facilities are designed to provide a collegiate-level education in mastering the art of criminality. For many criminals, going to prison is the equivalent of college, but for criminals. This is where they learn how to be better criminals, how to improve their chances of not getting caught the next time, how to leave less evidence the next time, etc.
With the amount of convicts that WILL be released into our neighborhoods at some point, it is in SOCIETY’s best interest to make sure that those released are better people, not masters of crime. Wouldn’t it be great if they go into prison broken, but come out fixed? Shouldn’t that be the goal since the majority of them will be released anyway?
We classify convicts based on the classification of the crime that they commit. Although that does make sense to some degree, it’s far too simplistic. We look at the convict’s past, such as how many previous arrests and/or convictions, (major vs. Minor) role in the crime, whether the victim contributed in the crime, remorse (which can be faked), addictions, difficult upbringing/family circumstances, whether the victim was a “vulnerable” victim (child, elderly, disabled), mental or physical illness, and more. All of this looks at the past. No one is thinking about the future. The questions that we, as a society, should ask are:
- Does this defendant (convict) need mental health treatment?
- Is this defendant (convict) capable of being rehabilitated?
- What factors in his or her past can be corrected through rehabilitation?
- How willing is the defendant to participate in rehabilitative programs?
- If the convict is capable of being rehabilitated, what does he or she need to become a productive member of society in the future?
By asking these questions, we look to the future, not just the past. We are recognizing that there is a very good chance that the convict will rejoin society, so we are formulating a plan to prepare that convict for successful reintegration into society.
This requires us to properly evaluate convicts to determine which convicts need mental health treatment, are capable of rehabilitation, and are not capable of being rehabilitated. Again, we must be mindful not to oversimplify this process by classifying based only on the type of crime (i.e., thieves can be rehabilitated, but rapists cannot). We MUST look at each individual convict to determine his or her rehabilitative ability.
Minor Crimes (Misdemeanors)
When it comes to the minor crimes, restorative justice programs may be a better solution. What is Restorative Justice? In the traditional criminal justice setting, a crime happens, a suspect is arrested, and the victim may or may not testify at trial. The suspect is convicted and sent to prison as punishment, then later released from his or her “time out”, usually with a chip on his or her shoulder. In the meantime, the victim is left to heal him or herself.
Restorative Justice allows the victim and the suspect to both engage in repair what was harmed. The suspect (defendant, convict) accepts responsibility for his or her actions and works with the victim and the community to figure out how to heal from the harm that was done. An example would be some youths who vandalize a construction site. Under the traditional criminal justice system, the youths would go to juvenile detention for a set time (without any accountability or rehabilitation, resulting in hostility towards the Construction Company and society) and the construction company would clean up the physical mess left by the youths.
With Restorative Justice, the youths, the head of the construction company, the kids’ parents, counselors, and attorneys would get together to discuss the situation. The youths would have to admit and acknowledge what they did and why it was wrong. The parents would need to be supportive (not defend their “babies”). Everyone works together to figure out how the youths can fix the situation. This may include paying for the cleanup, spending time at the construction site physically cleaning up the mess they created, learning about the construction project (why it was being constructed, how it was meant to help the community, how the vandalism delayed the growth of the community, etc.), and more. This is meant to teach the youths about the consequences of their actions, how their actions affect others, including themselves, and how their actions affect the community as a whole.
Restorative Justice seeks to hold the offender accountable, while providing the victim with a voice to be an active participant. The victim and offender are not just passive objects in the process; they are active participants. Both the victim and offender are empowered to chart their own path back to restoration. Punishment tends to lead to more crime. A lack of punishment leads to more crime. Crime is very contagious. But, with Restorative Justice, we are stopping the cancer at the very beginning, preventing it from spreading and infecting others.
The goals of Restorative Justice are:
- Invite full participation and consensus
- Heal what has been broken
- Seek full and direct accountability
- Reunite what has been divided
- Strengthen the community, to prevent further harm
Restorative Justice is not about avoiding responsibility. Responsibility is at the very core of Restorative Justice. It is about justice, responsibility, accountability, empowerment (especially of the victim), healing, stopping the spread of crime, and restoring communities.
Redefining Hate Crimes
I have tried to think of a crime that was done out of love. If John kills Adam because Adam has hurt Sheila (whom John loves), then I can see that there is a love component, but John is killing Adam out of hate for Adam and love for Sheila. There always seems to be a degree of hate involved in most crimes.
Murder of certain victims from certain protected groups can be labeled a “hate crime.” However, if the victim does not fit into one of those protected groups, it is not considered a hate crime. Try explaining to the mother, whose son was just gunned down, why her son’s murder is not considered a “hate crime”, worthy of a stricter sentence.
An example would be two African-American mothers, each with a son who was gunned down. Mother A’s son was killed by another African American. Mother B’s son was killed by a Caucasian. The African American who killed mother A’s son gets 30 years in prison for murder. The Caucasian who killed Mother B’s son gets a natural life sentence because it was classified as a “hate crime”. Is that fair to the mothers? Both are mourning the losses of their sons. Both sons are still dead. Is the pain of one mother greater than another? Try explaining to Mother A how the person who killed her son will get out of prison in about 20 years (good behavior) because her son’s death wasn’t as bad as the death of Mother B’s son.
Crime is crime. Hate is usually a factor in most crime. Even when greed is the motivating factor, the offender HATES that he or she doesn’t have more and is willing to take from others to soothe this hatred.
The term “hate crime” is incredibly redundant. Do we really need to classify crime this way? It may be time to can a duck, a duck and a crime, a crime.
The Death Penalty should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. The Death Penalty is so extreme that there is absolutely no room for mistakes. Our criminal justice system is imperfect. Mistakes can, and do, happen. Innocent people have been convicted, even sent to death row. Modern science has shed a light on just how imperfect our system can be. The Death Penalty is a sentence that cannot be overturned or corrected once the sentence has been carried out. We can’t bring back the dead who were wrongfully convicted and executed. So, we need to make sure that anyone given this extreme sentence is truly, indisputably guilty. How can we know?
When we are talking about a mass murderer or a serial killer, with overwhelming evidence, we can be more certain that the conviction(s) are correct. When someone has been convicted of killing multiple people, especially on multiple occasions, we can be certain that even if he was wrongfully convicted of one murder, it is highly unlikely that he was wrongfully convicted of each murder. These are the extreme cases, where guilt has been proven over and over, with overwhelming evidence. These would be the types of cases that would warrant the death sentence.
Drugs and Addiction
Addiction has been treated as criminal behavior. In most circumstances, it is a disease. Addiction is very difficult to treat, but it is treatable. We, as a society, need to recognize that drug abuse is a disease that requires medical intervention and intensive, multi-faceted rehabilitative treatment. Many good, decent, productive members of our society have been destroyed by this disease. What starts out as an injury requiring pain management can quickly become an addiction.
For decades, we have viewed addiction as a personal failure of those afflicted. We have denied treatment and incarcerated addicts. Yet, the problem persists. We cannot incarcerate our way out of this disease. We have spent more than four decades trying that and failing. We must treat our way out of this problem. Long-term rehabilitation is the common sense approach needed to heal those broken and shattered by drug abuse.
But, treatment programs, especially long-term treatment programs cost a lot of money. Think about all the money we have invested in our failed War on Drugs. Imagine how many people we could have rehabilitated if that money would have been used on treatment and rehabilitation instead of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for drug offenses. We’ve spent decades throwing money down the drain. It’s time we repurpose that money for treatment and long-term rehabilitation programs, rather than continue to waste that money for another four decades.
Although this Diagnostic Report is far from a complete list of the problems with our Criminal Justice system, it lays out some of the most serious problems. When we wonder why it costs so much or why our crime problems do not seem to be getting better, many of the issues stated in this report are the reasons. Under our current Criminal Justice system, crime doesn’t go away. It festers. It spreads. It is a societal behavioral disease. Without treatment, it will only grow. We can continue to beat it without mercy, or we can treat it and cure it, once and for all. It is up to us to change our perspective. Then, and only then, do we stand a chance at healing our broken society.
 National Archives, Federal Register: The Daily Journal of the United States Government, Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration, Bureau of Prisons, Justice Department, April 30, 2018, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09062/annual-determination-of-average-cost-of-incarceration, accessed February 10, 2020.
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Kaeble, Danielle and Cowhig, Mary, BJS Statisticians, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016, April 2018, NCJ 251211, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus16.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015, Mai, Chris and Subramanian, Ram, May 2017, pages 7-8, https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/legacy_downloads/the-price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015, Mai, Chris and Subramanian, Ram, May 2017, page 12, https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/legacy_downloads/the-price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Reentry Trends In The U.S., Hughes, Timothy and Wilson, Doris James, BJS Statisticians, https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm#highlights, accessed December 15, 2018.
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014); Alper, Ph.D, Mariel and Durose, Matthew R., BJS Statisticians, Markman, Joshua, former BJS Statistician, May 2018, page 6, Table 3 https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/18upr9yfup0514.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.