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President's Commission on Crime, February 12, 1969.-
Organization and Effectiveness of the Correctional Agencies, June 1966.
justice, reform in the District of Columbia, July 1971. Appendix E.—The Cost of Correcting Youthful Offenders, District of Columbia Department of Corrections, Research Report No. 6, September 1968..
COURT REFORM ACT IMPACT ON
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16, 1971
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 6226, New Senate Office Building, Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III, presiding.
Present: Senators Stevenson and Mathias.
Also present: Gene E. Godley, general counsel; Robert B. Washington, counsel; and Clarence V. McKee, Jr., minority staff member.
Senator STEVENSON. This morning the Subcommittee on Business, Commerce, and Judiciary of the Senate District Committee opens oversight hearings on the Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 and its impact on the correctional system of the District of Columbia. These hearings are a continuation of this committee's well-documented concern over the administration of criminal justice in the District of Columbia and its contribution to the improvement of that system.
On July 16, 1965, President Johnson appointed a Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia to study crime prevention and control in the District of Columbia at a time when there was alarming concern over the incidence of crime in the District. The full report of this Commission was released on January 1, 1967, and was a comprehensive factfinding study with some 262 recommendations.
Two years later, in February of 1969, the then chairman of this committee, Senator Tydings, wrote to each agency and organization to which the Crime Commission recommendations were directed requesting a status report on the implementation of the recommendations. The response to these requests was published by the Senate District Committee and extensive hearings were begun on crime in the National Capital.
These hearings eventually became 12 volumes and formed the basis for several legislative proposals, including the Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 which concerns us today. During the evolution of these hearings, an advisory panel against armed violence was appointed by the Senate District Committee on September 23, 1969, which reported to the chairman of the
committee on December 3, 1969, with recommended solutions to the armed violence crisis in the National Capital.
Based on all of these studies and hearings, the Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act evolved and after lengthy consideration was enacted and signed into law on July 29, 1970. Because of the comprehensive nature of this act, its impact on the criminal justice system is destined to be vast and vigilence must be maintained to insure that the benefits of the act are not obscured by unforeseen problems that might develop.
It is in this nature of oversight that this committee has decided to look into the District of Columbia corrections system to evaluate the results of the Court Reform Act. Specifically, we have been alerted to increased population trends in correctional institutions as a result of the act. Our attention will therefore be focused on the changing nature of the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia since the President's Commission on Crime report and the subsequent effect of the implementation of many of those recommendations, including provisions of the Court Reform Act.
These hearings will continue tomorrow. I expect to have at least one additional hearing after tomorrow. The record will remain open for any person wishing to contribute comments and for any of you who are present today and would like to make additional statements to the committee.
Our first witness this morning is Mr. Herbert J. Miller, the former chairman, President's Commission on Crime, and past president of the District of Columbia Bar Association. Good morning, Mr. Miller.
STATEMENT OF HERBERT J. MILLER, PAST PRESIDENT, DISTRICT
OF COLUMBIA BAR ASSOCIATION, AND FORMER CHAIRMAN,
Mr. MILLER. Good morning, Senator.
Senator STEVENSON. Do you have a statement you would like to place in the record ?
Mr. MILLER. If the committee please, I do not have a prepared statement. I discussed with Mr. Godley the fact that the time element intervened and I was unable to get a prepared statement. I would like to proceed verbally without a prepared statement, Mr. Chairman.
Senator STEVENSON. Please proceed.
Mr. MILLER. As the chairman has indicated, in 1965 President Johnson appointed a Crime Commission in the District of Columbia. The content of the Commission and the whole philosophy behind it tried to ascertain factually a study in which the administration of criminal justice operated in the District of Columbia. In too many instances decisions were made on surmised assumptions rather than hard facts.
I know we on the Commission were quite divided in how much time and effort we had to spend on factfinding as distinguished
from attempting to reach workable solutions on the basis of facts we have always known.
We think the main result which came out of the Crime Commission in its objective study was the knowledge that any time you take steps to improve a part of the system you must at the same time look to the balance of the system because if it does not operate as a cohesive whole you are losing the advantage of the improvement that you have tried to impose on a part of the system.
We have hence seen in the District of Columbia a substantial increase in the number of police officers. We have seen a substantial reorganization of the police force. We have seen increases in the number of prosecutors assigned to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Now, under the present format, we have seen a substantial increase in the availability of individual manpower and support personnel for the courts. The new superior court, in turn, has and will engender a substantial increase in the number of individuals going through the system.
The question which this committee has readily posed upon is: What steps have been taken, what steps can be taken, and what should be done with respect to the correctional system and all the outshoots thereof? We all know sitting here that there is going to be a substantial increase in the number of individuals who are convicted in the District of Columbia.
We can further assume and I think properly assume, that there will be a substantial increase in the number of inmates in Lorton and other places of incarceration. I know that the correctional system, in conjunction with the other elements of the District of Columbia, have concluded on the basis of projections, that may or may not be correct but probably are actually low, that facilities at Lorton which have a rated capacity of 1,384, by the end of fiscal 1972 may well have inmates in the numbers of 2,300 to 2,400, and an obvious problem with overcrowding.
The same thing we would find in respect to the youth center at Lorton which has a rated capacity of 324 and it is suggested that there would be from 495 to 618 inmates there by the end of fiscal 1972.
There are several ways, obviously, that the problem can be attacked. One way, which I don't think there's time to use to attack it, is building some new institutions. I think the time has gone by. The plans to build a larger and better medium of confinement in the system should have been started years ago. We face the problem now and we have to focus on it. That is why I'm so glad that the committee has decided to look at this problem. How the present system, and by that I am including probation, parole, work relief, and all the other programs, in fact handle the substantial increase in the number of convicted felons in the District of Columbia.
I think it's obvious if you merely take and incarcerate a substantial number of the increase of convicted persons in Lorton that all the good that has been done over the last 2, 3, or 4 years with respect to those educational and rehabilitation training courses in the last, will be downgraded. The reason is very simple. Where you have overcrowded prison institutions the very functions of rehabilitation tend to fly backwards. It's impossible to run a successful rehabilitation effort where the prison itself is overcrowded.
I am informed that right now there is a problem with the youth centers. There are currently individuals who are waiting in the District of Columbia jail for transfer to the youth center. Judges will sentence individuals, they think under the Youth Correctional Act and because of the fact that there are insufficient facilities, they remain in the local jail until such time there is a slot available at the youth center.
I am informed that the work relief program is operating at capacity but that additional budget funds have been requested and it is anticipated that a substantial increase will be made in that particular area.
I think what we have to do is focus upon the release of the offender back into the community under as strict control as may be required. I think in the long run it is self-defeating to place a convicted felon in an institution which is overcrowded and unable to perform any rehabilitation with respect to that individual.
Consequently, of course, this entails the judicial system in substantial part. I think the courts themselves are going to have to consider very carefully which individual they will in fact sentence to incarceration and which they will place on probation. I know we found, at the time of the Commission report, that the probation rate in the District of Columbia for felonies was approximately 36 percent. This is very low compared with the rate of those offenders given probation in other jurisdictions. We can argue that this jurisdiction is not comparable because for a substantial period of time most of the individuals going through the process were the most serious offenders. The others being broken down in deciding where to put them by the court of general sessions.
The Department of Corrections can do much, and has done much, with respect to the rehabilitation of the offenders. The Department of Corrections cannot determine what sentence the individual felon will receive. That is a matter for the judiciary. Yet if the judiciary is going to sentence individuals to incarceration, when the correctional system does not have available space for that individual, obviously the whole process becomes self-defeating. And that is why, frankly, I would hope that this committee by oversight hearings can ascertain that, almost on a monthly basis the availability of slots in the prison system, the trend which will be forthcoming out of the new superior court, and be in a position to know where or whether the prison system is reaching a point of materially overcrowding. And whether or not suggestions can be made with respect to probation. Fortunately, we are aware that probation and the other programs which mean that the individuals can go back into the community under strict supervision, can be made available.
As the chairman well knows, the Crime Commission made several recommendations with respect to the correctional system. In fact much of what we did was based on a long survey made by