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The Criminal Justice Section has the unique ability to garner and synthesize expertise to promote a balanced perspective on the issues facing the American criminal justice system by its prosecutor, judicial, academic and defense attorney members. The section has ambitious plans for 2007-08. Working through its Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions (CECS), the section continues to formulate policies and best practices designed to reduce recidivism and repeat criminal activity by encouraging drug and mental health treatment as alternatives to incarceration. The section and CECS managed to forge an historic coalition with the National District Attorneys’ Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association to co-sponsor four important resolutions that were adopted without a dissenting voice at the February 2007 meeting of the House of Delegates. The section is proud of the cooperation that prosecutors, defense counsel and judges demonstrated in carefully examining rising rates of incarceration and their effects upon communities throughout the country. There was general agreement that reducing crime means reducing the number of victims, and widespread support for a variety of cost-effective measures to reduce crime and promote the re-entry of convicted offenders into their communities with jobs, housing and a genuine second chance. After almost two years of study and debate, the section and CECS will present a resolution dealing with criminal records and employment to the House of Delegates this August. This is a controversial subject. Assisting individuals with criminal histories to obtain employment is the goal, but legitimate concerns about public safety, transparency and public access to records require that policy in this area be nuanced and developed with sensitivity to the competing interests. The section is proud to have provided testimony before the U.S. Sentencing Commission on the subject of standards for early release of federal prisoners for extraordinary and compelling reasons pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). After more than 20 years of inattention to the subject, the sentencing commission proposed standards to guide judges in ruling on Federal Bureau of Prisons motions. Although the U.S. Justice Department opposed the standards and indicated that it may ignore them, their adoption may prompt Congress to take another look at the importance of a safety valve in sentencing for those whose circumstances or family conditions have changed dramatically since they were originally sentenced. On Nov. 2, the section will host a major conference on plea bargaining at George Washington University in Washington. State and federal prosecutors and defenders, state and local judges, and a number of academics will examine the best and worst practices associated with bargaining in criminal cases. The section will examine current American Bar Association policy on military justice and consider whether to propose new policy in view of the more than 50 years of experience with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It will continue to review both the use of military tribunals as alternative forums for prosecuting crimes and the proposed alternatives for prosecuting terrorists. And it will help develop ABA policy with respect to federal sentencing in light of the experience since January 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided U.S. v. Booker, and made the Federal Sentencing Guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. Stephen A. Saltzburg is chair-elect of the Criminal Justice Section and a professor at George Washington University School of Law. For more information about the section, see www.abanet.org/crimjust.

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