The Recession’s Effect on Federal Prison Sentences


On March 2, 2011, Jeff Ifrah, founder of Ifrah Law, and Jeffrey Hamlin, an associate in the firm, published the following article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Prison inmates in the United States may have reason to thank Wall Street for the 2008 recession. The bloated federal deficit is forcing agencies to tighten their budgets, including the U.S. Department of Justice. According to its budget for 2012, the Department of Justice proposes to offset budget increases with cost-cutting measures that include a revision to the way good-time credits are calculated for federal prison inmates.

We think the Department of Justice is on the right track. Giving well-behaved inmates more good-time credit will reduce prison terms and save money, both desirable outcomes. But a close look at the department’s proposal suggests that projected savings may be overstated, if not altogether illusory. And if the country were not heading into the 2012 election cycle, one might wonder why the department decided to advocate for timid cuts at the periphery over fundamental and much-needed change.

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