U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today on proposals to reduce the federal prison population. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, is the ranking member on the committee. “We hear that all of these proposals would save money and not raise crime. I’m skeptical,” Grassley said.
There’s been a 700-percent increase in the federal prison population in the last 30 years and the cost of housing those inmates now represents 30-percent of Justice Department’s budget. Grassley, in his opening remarks at the hearing, said he’s troubled by the “cries for increased judicial discretion” when it comes to sentencing criminals. “Too many judges are already too lenient,” Grassley said. “They can do serious damage.”
While acknowledging “funds are not unlimited” for prisons, Grassley noted it’s worthwhile for Congress to examine a “balanced mix” of sentencing reforms.
“It is well worth considering releasing very sick prisoners or prisoners of such advanced age or other situations, as to be accessed as a very low risk to commit new crimes,” Grassley said. “But, leniency for the sake of leniency is ill-advised. It’s an especially bad idea as crime rates are rising, as we’ve seen in the last couple years.”
Federal officials report, in 2012, there was a 15-percent increase in violent crimes and a 10-percent increase in property crimes across the country.