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Advocates Say Justice Reforms Shouldn't 'Carve Out' Crime Types

Criminal legal system reforms are being introduced at a rapid pace across the nation, often with the stated goal of reducing prison and jail populations. These reforms often omit large categories of people affected by the justice system, These “carveouts” generally exclude people charged with or convicted of violent, sex-related, or other serious charges, says the Prison Policy Institute. This is sometimes referred to as focusing on the “non, non, nons” — nonviolent, non-sexual, and non-serious charges. “Serious” charges often include drug crimes that involve specific controlled substances, like fentanyl or methamphetamines. The institute contends that policymakers believe that these carveouts are politically necessary in order to pass legislation, or believe that they are good policy. Some reformers make the mistake of assuming that carveouts are unavoidable, the institute says.


The advocacy organization argues that justice reform "will never achieve its goals if we continue to focus only on non-violent, non-sexual, and non-serious charges. Carveouts dramatically lessen the impact of criminal legal system reforms, and create a more difficult political landscape for later reform." In 2017, Louisiana made changes to its probation system, including allowing “earned compliance credits” so that people could shorten their probation terms by completing requirements. Even though credits would be given only if someone was compliant on probation, Louisiana carved out anyone convicted of a crime of violence or a sex-related offense. Not all carveouts concern violent or sex-related offenses.

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