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September 30, 2004

Why I am optimistic about sentencing reforms

Today's thoughtful WSJ article (discussed here) highlighting the real risk of a congressional "mandatory minimum backlash" after Blakely provides yet another reason to be pessimistic about the future of federal sentencing. (For one example of such pessimism, see Professor Bibas' final Tuesday entry here in our on-going Blakely debate over at Legal Affairs.)

But every time I check my e-mail, I learn about amazing new organizations and efforts seeking to ensure that our elected representatives in Congress will properly focus upon sound sentencing policy rather than political rhetoric. I noted one such organization earlier this week here, and I was pleased to see that this report from Justice at Stake included a long section explaining why "the politics of crime are changing [due to] seven political factors emerging as part of a backlash against decades of one-size-fits-all crime policy."

More encouraging news arrived today when I was alerted to the work of Watching Justice, a relatively new nonpartisan website that monitors the activities of the Department of Justice to provide an overview of justice-related policy issues. As noted here, earlier this month Watching Justice co-sponsored a major event entitled "Blakely, the Kennedy Commission, and Beyond" with The Constitution Project. More details about that event and an audio link can be found here.

And speaking of the Constitution Project, today I also got sent a copy of this press release indicating that the Constitution Project has finalized the formation of its new Sentencing Initiative, a "guided by a bipartisan blue-ribbon committee of distinguished legal experts, which will examine state and federal sentencing systems and offer recommendations for reform."

According to the press release, "the Initiative's committee will be co-chaired by Edwin Meese III, Attorney General under President Reagan, and Philip Heymann, Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton." I must here proudly note that Phil Heymann was my professor in my first-year Criminal Law class at Harvard Law School, and also note that other members of the truly amazing blue-ribbon committee include my former boss (Judge Jon Newman, US Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit), a casebook co-author (Ronald Wright, Professor of Law, Wake Forest Law School), and an FSR co-editor (Frank Bowman, Professor of Law, Indiana University-Indianapolis School of Law).

With all of these amazing organization and individuals working so hard on making the sentencing world better, how can anyone possibly be pessimistic?

September 30, 2004 at 01:53 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I am happy to have found your web-site today via "The November Coalition". And I am especially happy to hear the Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned. I am a retired social worker and mother of a college educated 35 year old, non-violent, low level drug offender who was sentenced to 12 years in prison 2 years ago. His lawyer filed a brief on his behalf with the Supreme Court as my son's sentence also was enhanced by the P.A. and Judge. I am very hopeful that the Court rules favorly on Blakley v Washington.
Thank you for your good works.

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