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Recap of reforms, criminal justice system successes in 2015

When residents in New York are accused of a crime, he or she will likely work hard to develop a strategic criminal defense. While this could help some defendants dismiss the charges against them, others are convicted of lesser charges or even the original crime. Because the long-term consequences of some crimes could have a lasting personal and professional effect, it is important that criminal defense options are still considered even after the accused is convicted and sentenced.

The political agenda regarding the criminal justice system saw several successes in 2015, and have helped pass legislation that have helped those accused and convicted of criminal charges in New York and other states across the nation. Actions such as reforming mass incarceration policies, reducing sentences and easing employment of ex-convicts have caused much momentum for the criminal justice system.

History was made back in July when President Obama became the first sitting president to walk into a federal prison. Obama's advocacy for federal reform resulted in him granting 184 clemencies during his presidency. In the past 12 months, he also commuted the sentences of 163 inmates this past year, all who were in prison for decades nonviolent drug crimes with some serving life sentences.

Solitary confinement was reformed in some states. New York just recently announced that it will be reducing its solitary population, limiting the time inmates will spend in solitary and allowing those inmates in solitary to have more recreation and phone calls. Also, the U.S. Sentencing Commission recently passed a sentencing reform, which has already helped to reduce sentences of 6,000 prisoners in federal prisons.

And while many defendants work hard to avoid criminal convictions, it is important that defendants and their loved ones are aware of the options available to them if he or she must serve a sentence in jail or prison. As the above information indicates, reform could lead to reduced sentences and pardons, which have helped many individuals in New York this year.

Source: Fusion.net, "Seven ways our criminal justice system got a little more just in 2015," Casey Tolan, Dec. 28, 2015

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