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Submitted 10:57 a.m.
03.04.2015
Letter to the Editor

I don't think it is too early for us to take on the question of what is and isn't a crime of violence. ”

Mary Price of Washington, D.C.

Thanks to Dana Goldstein for her thought-provoking article on the need to step outside the comfort zone when it comes to cutting state prison populations. The prospect of releasing people convicted of gun or other crimes considered violent gives many on the right and left pause. I think Van Jones' observation -- that not every crime labeled violent is in fact a crime of violence -- is the right conversation starter for conservatives and liberals united in their commitment to reduce prison populations but faced with the large numbers of people locked up in states for violent crimes.

Alison Holcomb rightly points out that the offense of conviction can mask the "nuances of humanity." Labeling huge swaths of offenders as violent prevents us from doing the granular but necessary work of determining who actually needs to be separated from society, and for how long. I don't think it is too early for us to take on the question of what is and isn't a crime of violence. In fact, the Supreme Court has wrestled with the question as it relates to one federal statute five times since 2007. ( Johnson v. United States, No. 13-7120 ). Goldstein makes a compelling case against kicking this issue down the road.

Mary Price is the general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a sentencing reform organization based in Washington, D.C.

 
These letters written in response to
Justice Lab March 4, 2015
No, freeing potheads and shoplifters is not enough.