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Will reform momentum materially change criminal justice system?

"[A]s bipartisan as it gets."

That's how a recent media article on what is termed "our broken criminal justice system" refers to the broad-based support that has emerged nationally for material reform in the criminal law realm.

Many persons in Arkansas and throughout the rest of the country likely endorse the reform sentiment and even outright zeal that is currently apparent for significant adjustments to criminal law rules and policies.

After all, many millions of Americans have either been sent to prison because of them or know someone who has.

In fact, the title "Crime and Punishment" that denotes a classic novel could just as easily apply to the reality of the American justice system.

Above all else, that reality has been harsh and uncompromising for many years, dating back to a ready predilection during prior presidential tenures (both Republican and Democrat) to enact legislation -- "draconian laws," notes the above-cited article -- focused upon lengthy lockups for even arguably minor crimes.

Reportedly, the result has been this: about an $80 billion per-annum cost to run the country's penal system and an incarceration rate about 10 times higher than is the case in Western Europe.

Many persons who ordinarily take polar-opposite positions on political topics have, conversely, come together in impressive fashion to condemn existing policies. Included among the names of individuals who cite a need for major changes in the country's criminal justice system is a veritable who's-who catalog of prominent lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.

Will their clarion call for reform result in altered sentencing guidelines, expanded drug treatment programs, job-placement initiatives and other changes currently being suggested?

Only time will tell, of course, but it seems likely that adjustments are coming, given the sheer breadth of support for systemic change.

And if they are material, criminal law commentators could conceivably be telling a quite different tale in a few years concerning prison administration, recidivism rates, community reintegration efforts, penal upkeep costs and other crime-related matters.

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