Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Happens When a State Continues to Implement 25 years to Life Sentences for Sex Offenses Year After Year for a Tough on Predator Stance? Utah is Finding Out and it’s Not Good for the State or the Offenders.

Sex offenders driving up Utah’s prison population, September 15, 2014
Utah bucks national prisoner decline trend as sexual-crime crackdown feeds prison system.
By Marissa Lang

Prison populations around the country have been in steady decline for the past 10 years. 

In Utah, it’s a different story. 

The number of men and women in the state’s prison system has continued to rise, with the highest drivers being nonviolent criminals and sex offenders, who are staying in longer and taking up more beds than ever before, according to data collected by the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Sex offenders now take up 42 percent more beds than they did 10 years ago, making them the largest group inside the Utah State Prison. 

It’s a fact that is coming under scrutiny as state lawmakers and public safety officials search for ways to improve the system, get the prison population under control and stop the "revolving door" in which so many offenders seem to get caught. 

Sex offenses and how the state deals with them, in particular, have raised tough question about how Utah handles these crimes, whether offenders are getting adequate treatment and at what point they are being released back into the community.  

A third of all prisoners in the state prison system are in for sex crimes, according to Pew data. And that number’s going up, Board of Pardons and Parole member Clark Harms said recently. 

Virginia: We Need More Innocence Commissions by A. Barton Hinkle

Hinkle: We need more innocence commissions, September 17, 2014
By A. Barton Hinkle

The five or six masochists who read this column by choice rather than by accident know it’s not exactly given to cheerleading for more government. So they’ll want to note this edition – which argues for not just more government spending, but a whole new state agency. 

That agency would be an Innocence Inquiry Commission – something North Carolina has that no other state has. You might have heard about North Carolina’s from recent news coverage of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, who were set free this month after serving three decades in prison for a crime they did not commit.