At last, more emphasis -- particularly from Attorney General Eric Holder -- is being placed on how to reduce the large numbers of inmates in our overflowing prisons. Once released, these people are often re-arrested, and then locked up again.
In an editorial last month, The New York Times revealed what many of us didn't know, that "in 2013, about 30,000 federal prison inmates were released to more than 200 halfway houses around the country. These facilities -- where an inmate can serve up to the last year of his or her sentence -- are meant to ease the transition back into society by way of employment and housing assistance, drug treatment and other programs that make it less likely an inmate will end up returning to prison."
The problem, though, is that "too many halfway houses are understaffed, poorly supervised and generally ill prepared to do that job, and as a result the men and women who pass through them often leave them no better off," says the Times editorial.
The Times editorial goes on: "On March 24, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a step in the right direction by announcing new requirements for federally financed halfway houses -- the most recent example of his aggressive push for reform across the criminal justice system."
Furthermore: "Starting in early 2015, halfway houses must provide more rigorous and standardized cognitive-behavioral treatment for inmates with mental health or substance abuse issues, both of which are rampant in prison populations."
How many congressional and presidential candidates will support this in 2016?
Sens. Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin and Mike Lee -- along with Reps. Bobby Scott and Raul Labrador -- have introduced legislation that would give judges more discretion in determining appropriate sentences for those convicted of certain crimes.
"By reserving the most severe penalties for dangerous and violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation while saving billions of dollars and strengthening communities," said the editorial.
Said Holder, "In recent years, no fewer than 17 states have directed significant funding away from prison construction and toward evidence-based programs and services, like supervision and drug treatment, that are proven to reduce recidivism while improving public safety."
And to draw the support of taxpayers increasingly worried about how well their health insurance and pensions will cover them during retirement, Holder cheerily said: "Rather than increasing costs, a new report projects that these 17 states will actually save $4.6 billion over a 10-year period." This renewed Eric Holder has shown he can be his own man. There should be more changes to come.
Nat Hentoff is an authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.