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May 18, 2005

Reaching economic tipping points for tough-on-crime movements

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast has been doing a great job highlighting here and here how tight budgets and the high costs of mass incarceration in Texas are forcing state legislators to reconsider "tough on crime" policies.  And a helpful reader sent me this remarkable article detailing how tight budget are impacting prosecutions in Ashtabula, Ohio:

Budget problems and layoffs have so crippled the Ashtabula County justice system that dozens of crimes committed at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut over the last three years, including felony assaults and drug offenses, have not been prosecuted....

Finances are so tight that people who call the office of Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini are greeted by this recording: "Due to budget restrictions, we are unable to answer phone calls between the hours of 12 and 4:30. Please leave a message and we will respond as soon as personnel are available."

I have blogged a lot about how states are really struggling to pay the bills coming due from two decades of tough-on-crime rhetoric and the resulting huge prison populations.  Just a few posts on this topic are linked below:

May 18, 2005 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Reaching economic tipping points for tough-on-crime movements:

» Legislation equalizing sentences for crack, cocaine on Gov. Rell's desk from a Public Defender
H.B. 6635 [bill text], which equalizes the minimum quantity of crack and powdered cocaine, thereby equalizing sentences is on Gov. Rell's desk. Under current law, someone caught selling a half gram of crack cocaine faces the same minimum mandatory five... [Read More]

Tracked on May 19, 2005 9:56:08 PM

» Legislation equalizing sentences for crack, cocaine on Gov. Rell's desk from a Public Defender
H.B. 6635 [bill text], which equalizes the minimum quantity of crack and powdered cocaine, thereby equalizing sentences is on Gov. Rell's desk. Under current law, someone caught selling a half gram of crack cocaine faces the same minimum mandatory five... [Read More]

Tracked on May 19, 2005 10:00:34 PM

Comments

Currently, In 39 American states, and in federal cases the terms “heinous” and “depraved” are used in courts to allow judges and juries to assign more severe sentences; yet, there is no standardized definition for these legal terms –leaving triers of fact to decide on the basis of mere emotions, which can be easily manipulated.

To combat this arbitrariness in sentencing, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and associate professor at NYU, has designed the Depravity Scale -- an objective, evidence-based instrument that standardizes the specific intents, actions and attitudes according to public consensus. The Depravity Scale enables juries to consider the depravity of a crime independent of the defendant's race, gender, political affiliation, or other potential biases, to ensure that sentencing is consistent and fair.

The Depravity Scale is undergoing validation research at a secure site (www.depravityscale.org), where participants are asked to weigh in on the extent to which 26 items are representative of depravity. I encourage you to take part in the development of this socially relevant tool and give yourself a voice in the way justice is carried out in the United States.

Posted by: Lina Tetelbaum | Jun 7, 2005 3:00:46 PM

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