Shepherd, who is chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, asked the bipartisan task force to conduct a comprehensive review of federal criminal laws because the sheer number “[make] it impossible for the layperson to understand what is criminal and what is not.”
Shepherd warned that “punishment … can lose its deterrent, educative, rehabilitative and even retributive qualities under the barrage of overly broad, superfluous statues.”
The ABA identifies overfederalization and overcriminalization as liabilities with significant financial and legal costs. An ABA study revealed in 1998 that more than 40 percent of the federal provisions enacted since the Civil War were enacted since 1970. “While only a small fraction of our nation’s prosecutions are handled in federal court, the overwhelming number of regulations and statutes that carry criminal penalties are found on the federal side of the ledger,” Shepherd said.
Overcriminalization is evidenced by the 6.98 million offenders under supervision in 2011 in the United States. “Nearly half of the prisoners in the United States have been incarcerated for nonviolent offenses,” Shepherd said.
“Reducing overcriminalization saves taxpayer money and improves the lives of all citizens.”
Shepherd’s testimony on behalf of the ABA can be found here.
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