The Wall Street Journal reported today that in surprising testimony yesterday before a House sub-committee, Justices Kennedy and Breyer spoke out against the state of affairs in the American criminal justice system. Claiming that is was too harsh and that it locks up too many people, for too long.
Referring to our justice policy as being one of "total incarceration", Kennedy, usually a member of the court's law and order wing, stated that he believes that this policy is more harmful to public safety, than it is protective. Kennedy stated he believed that other forms of community control would serve the public better. For all the money we spend on prisons, we could provide more probation officers and programs to rehabilitate many offenders. "Total incarceration just isn't working", Kennedy said.
Breyer added his two cents by coming out against minimum mandatories as being "a terrible idea." The Republican chair of the sub-committee opened the door to this discussion during a routine budget hearing.
Wouldn't you like to have been a fly on the wall when these two arrived at the Supreme Court Building, and had to face Scalia and Roberts before oral argument this morning? These two were sent to discuss budgets, not philosophy of sentencing.
In my last post I discussed the effect of the recent decisions of the Florida Supreme Court in regard to severe sentencing of juvenile offenders. Is this just one more step in the idea that we begin to rethink our justice systems need for incarceration? Is it time to start thinking of alternatives? Are we on our way back to rehabilitation as a goal? If Kennedy is on board, then maybe . . .
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