One federal lawmaker, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, claims that the Department of Justice is spending too much on prisons. Leahy has spent considerable time and effort on reform, specifically prison overcrowding and sentencing, and has worked on two significant bills known as the Justice Safety Valve Act and the Smarter Sentencing Act.
When you hear about a person being released from prison after serving only half of a their sentence, that person was not in the federal prison system. Often, state prisons are much more lenient on the actual sentence that must be served before an inmate can be released early to his or her family.
While federal sentencing guidelines do give inmates credit for good behavior toward early release from prison, there is no parole in the federal system like there is in the state system. There are no 50-year sentences that allow for release after 20 years served (just a random example). That has meant that has state prison systems have seen a decline in their overall population, federal prisons have not.
Insider trading convictions are drawing greater scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Both groups are encouraging federal judges to sentence convicted white collar criminals to longer prison terms.