Truth In Sentencing

Availability of Federal Grants Influenced Laws in Some States Gao ID: GGD-98-42 February 4, 1998

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 provides incentive grants to states that have truth-in-sentencing laws requiring violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their imposed sentences. This report discusses (1) the number of states that have enacted truth-in-sentencing laws that meet the federal grant eligibility requirements, (2) whether the availability of federal grants was a factor in these states' decisions to enact truth-in-sentencing laws, and (3) the reasons why other states have not enacted truth-in-sentencing laws that meet the federal grant requirements.

GAO noted that: (1) at the time of GAO's review, based upon determinations made by the Department of Justice (DOJ), 27 states had TIS laws that met the requirements for receiving federal TIS grants; (2) for each of these 27 states, GAO contacted state officials to determine whether the availability of such grants was a factor in the respective state's decision to enact a TIS law; (3) based on responses to GAO's telephone survey, the states can be grouped into three categories--TIS grants not a factor, TIS grants a partial factor, and TIS grants a key factor; (4) the other 23 states and the District of Columbia did not receive federal TIS grants in fiscal year 1997; (5) in GAO's telephone survey, it confirmed these jurisdictions did not have TIS laws that met federal grant requirements; (6) for these 23 states and the District of Columbia, GAO contacted state and District officials to determine why the respective jurisdiction had not enacted TIS legislation that meets federal grant eligibility requirements; and (7) the reasons given in response to the telephone survey can be grouped into three categories: (a) prison construction or operation costs would be too high, even with federal grant money; (b) current sentencing practices appear to be working well; and (c) various other reasons.

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