As states around the country are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their bloated prison populations and budgets, even prosecutors are starting to get behind the changes. In Oregon, the state association of district attorneys this month endorsed reduced sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Among their proposals are “reducing marijuana penalties to prevent most marijuana offenders from going to prison” and eliminating harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes related to marijuana, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. The proposal comes in response to a state plan to reform the state’s criminal justice system. That plan includes the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for other offenses that are opposed by prosecutors, including sex-abuse, assault, and robbery.
Increasingly, conservatives who have historically followed a “tough on crime” mantra are embracing a “smart on crime” approach that reallocates resources to move away from over-criminalization and towards more efficient, effective criminal laws. Earlier this month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed two laws that embrace alternatives to incarceration to nonviolent drug and property offenders, and eliminate jail time for juveniles who merely misbehave. And ten bipartisan members of Congress have formed a committee devoted to over-criminalization.