it’s a problem for everyone. CA and other states continue to believe that sentencing commissions, guidelines, and alternative sanctions are the best answer for their ballooning and budget-crippling prison pop problems. But when VA, one of the very best states in terms of systems and staffs, faces the same problems despite their hard work and informed policy, then maybe we need to consider whether there even is a solution. It may be that, because corrections sentencing policy problems are nonlinear and show exponential trends, there may be thresholds and tipping points at which even the best systems become unable to stop the momentum. MN (Minnesota, not Maine) has been facing increased incarceration and disparity rates, and NC and WA, the other three states with the best pedigrees in this area, are looking at breakdowns and buildups as well.
The 2008 NASC conference in San Fran will attempt to bring academics, practitioners, and policymakers together in an overt and active way to talk about exactly where we are and need to be going in the future. VA’s situation, as well as CA’s own innate peculiarities, should serve as the foundation for those discussions. And, frankly, there should be some ground-setting work in advance to make sure the preliminary “who are we, what are we doing here?” time-consumption is already complete before the conference begins. Maybe if I were on the NASC board, I could . . . wait. I am. Hmm.
(h/t Sentencing Law and Policy)