The chief justice speaks out

Crime and the fear of crime have permeated the fabric of American life, damaging the poor and minorities even more than the affluent. I shared and still share . . . the belief that poverty and unemployment are reflected in crime rates -- chiefly crimes against property. But the hard facts simply did not and do not support the easy claims that poverty is the controlling factor; it is just one factor. A far greater factor is the deterrent effect of swift and certain consequences. . . .

Let me place this in perspective: (1) the bail reform statutes of recent years, especially as to nonviolent crimes, were desirable and overdue; (2) the provisions for a lawyer for every defendant were desirable and overdue; (3) statutes to insure speedy trials were desirable if the same legislation provides the means to accomplish the objective.

Here are a few steps which ought to be considered:

Recommended: Default

* Restore to all bail release laws the crucial element of future dangerousness based on a combination of the particular crime and past record, to deter crime-while- on-bail;

* Provide for trial within weeks of arrest, except for extraordinary cause shown;

* Priority for review on appeal within eight weeks of final judgment;

* Following appellate review, confine all subsequent judicial review to claims of miscarriage of justice;

And finally:

* We must accept the reality that to confine offenders behind walls without trying to change them is an expensive folly with short term benefits -- a "winning of battles while losing the war";

* Reexamine treatment of first nonviolent offenders -- intensive supervision and counseling and swift revocation if probation terms are violated;

* A broad scale physical rehabilitation of all prisons (perhaps on a federally funded matching grant basis) to provide a decent setting for education and vocational programs;

* Make all vocational and educational programs mandatory with credit against the sentence for educational progress -- literally a program to "learn the way out of prison," so that no prisoner leaves without at least being able to read, write, and do basic arithmetic;

* Generous family visitation in decent surroundings to maintain family ties, with rigid security to exclude drugs or weapons;

* Counseling services after release paralleling the "after-care" services in Sweden, Holland, Denmark.

All this should be aimed at developing respect for self, respect for others, accountability for conduct, appreciation of the value of work, of thrift, of family.

* Encourage religious groups to give c ounsel on ethical behavior and occupational adjustment.

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