16 March 2011

Federal Criminal Prosecutions Waste Money

How are we using federal criminal justice resources?

Filings in the regional courts of appeals dropped 3 percent to 55,992 in FY 2010, due to a 7 percent drop in criminal appeals to 12,797 and a 9 percent drop in administrative agency appeals to 7,813.... Prisoner petitions fell 3 percent to 15,789. Appeals involving pro se litigants declined 2 percent to 27,209....

Filings of criminal cases (including transfers) increased 2 percent to 78,428. The number of criminal defendants (including transfers) also rose 2 percent to 100,366, surpassing the previous record of 97,982 set in 2009. Proceedings were concluded against 98,311 defendants, 91 percent of whom were convicted, with 89 percent pleading guilty.

Immigration cases, which climbed 9 percent to 28,046, constituted 36 percent of all criminal cases filed, compared to 34 percent in 2009. The majority of immigration filings involved improper reentry of aliens, and 73 percent of all immigration cases were filed in the District of Arizona, the Southern District of California, the District of New Mexico, and the Southern and Western Districts of Texas.

Filings addressing fraud grew 12 percent to 9,371 for cases, and rose 13 percent to 12,639 for defendants in these cases.

Twenty percent of all criminal cases were drug offenses, compared to 22 percent in 2009. Cases involving drug offenses decreased 5 percent to 15,785, and defendants in those cases declined 2 percent to 29,410. Marijuana cases dropped 10 percent overall, but filings related to possession of marijuana increased, with cases climbing 26 percent to 1,248 and defendants rising 28 percent to 1,305. Drug cases involving non-marijuana offenses declined 3 percent to 10,817, and defendants in those cases fell 2 percent to 21,918.

Firearms and explosives cases, which account for 9 percent of total criminal case filings, declined 7 percent to 7,248. Defendants in those cases dropped 6 percent to 8,376.

Prosecuting and incarcerating someone whose only crime is being a repeat illegal immigrant at $30,000 per person per year, rather than simply deporting them at a cost of a few hundred bucks, or less, makes no sense. Neither does devoting federal criminal justice resources to marijuana possession cases. Drug possession generally is an issue that state courts are well equipped to handle. Nor does devoting substantial federal resources to very long prison terms for dirty old men with no prior criminal records who download child porn for free off the Internet (as the U.S. government does, despite its lack of mention in the statistics above), but have never actually harmed a child.

Notably, when gun toting, drug using judges are convicted of federal crimes, leniency is the rule.

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