Sentencing alternatives proposed for certain violent offenders

Jails and prisons in Texas and across the United States are overflowing with inmates. In fact, there are currently around 830 prisoners for every 100,000 adults living in the country.

It used to be worse. In 2008, there were 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. adults. However, many federal, state and local jurisdictions chose to decriminalize certain minor offenses, explore incarceration alternatives for low-level offenders, and reform law enforcement practices to drive inmate numbers down. Further, in 2018, Congress passed the FIRST STEP Act, which reduces sentences for certain non-violent federal crimes. This law is expected to lower the inmate population in federal prisons, but it won't do anything to lower inmate populations on a state and local level.

To address overcrowding, some experts believe that judges should be given more leeway when sentencing defendants accused of violent crimes. While they want truly violent offenders left in prison, they say more should be done to differentiate between those with a continuing propensity towards violence and those who are one-time offenders or who can be rehabilitated. For example, the Brooklyn Mental Health Court in New York City allows judges to sentence violent offenders with mental health issues to cognitive behavior therapy instead of prison. This has resulted in a recidivism rate that is 29 percent lower than other courts.

People who have been charged with violent crimes may be able to avoid conviction by contacting a criminal defense attorney for assistance as soon as possible. There could be several avenues that an attorney could explore when attempting to construct a strategy to defend the allegations.

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