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April 21, 2007

NY Gov. Spitzer as the true sentencing action hero

Despite his action hero movie persona, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to play the role of villain in various sentencing reform stories: e.g., authorizing (and then halting) work on a secret death chamber; persistently failing to deal with severe prison problems; undermining efforts to reform the state's extreme three-strikes law.  Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is showing how easy it can be for a motivate chief executive to move forward on sentencing reform.

As detailed in this press release, yesterday Spitzer announced several appointments to the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform.  Spitzer on his own initiative created this Commission last month through Executive Order 10, which calls upon the Commission to "conduct a comprehensive review of New York’s current sentencing structure, sentencing practices, community supervision, and the use of alternatives to incarceration."  And not one to waste any time, Spitzer's executive order creates an ambitious agenda and a tight timeline for this Commission's work:

The Commission shall make recommendations for amendments to state law that will maximize uniformity, certainty, consistency and adequacy of a sentence structure such that: (a) the punishment is aligned with the seriousness of the offense; (b) public safety is protected through the deterrent effect of the sentences authorized and the rehabilitation of those that are convicted; and (c) appropriate consideration is accorded to the victims of the offense, their families, and the community. 

Reports of the Commission shall include, but not be limited to, an evaluation of the impact that existing sentences have had on length of incarceration, the impact of early release, the impact of existing sentences on the length of community supervision, recommended options for the use of alternatives to incarceration, and an analysis of the fiscal impact of the Commission's recommendations.

The Commission shall issue an initial report of its findings and recommendations on or before September 1, 2007, and a final report on or before March 1, 2008.

As the title of this post states, based on Executive Order 10, Spitzer is the true sentencing action hero.  California has already provided an impressively detailed script of mistakes to avoid for states interested in sound sentencing reform.  I am hopeful that New York is on the way to charting a much better path.

April 21, 2007 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I am an appellate defense attorney with New York City Legal Aid.
The idea of a commission to study sentencing is an excellent one. Of the five commissioners Spitzer has thus far chosen, however, four are current or former prosecutors and one is an attorney for police unions. The commissioners who qualify by virtue of their positions are all law enforcement officials. Nobody on the panel has any connection to the criminal-defense community, or to organizations that have favored expanding rehabilitation programs or alternatives to incarceration.
Following 12 years of sweeping legislation in New York pushed by former Gov. Pataki that has resulted overall in dramatically longer sentences despite a sharp decrease in crime, one would have hoped that the governor would select commissioners from diverse backgrounds if he is truly motivated to reform sentencing.

Posted by: Andrew Fine | Apr 23, 2007 10:40:10 AM

of course, the dramatically long sentences may be one of the reasons for the sharp decrease in crime . . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Apr 23, 2007 1:36:05 PM

My name is Lynn Jennings, I reside in PA, but my husband is housed innocently for over 37 plus years in NY State. It was his case, his love and encouragement that gave me the stepping stone I needed to suceed my life time goal and get a education. I now have my Paralegal/ Legal Aid Certificate from Blackstone, I have also gained 15 credits in Criminal Justice. I want to start another degree, most likely in Criminal Investigations.

It was just to much to earn both, plus watching my grandson while my daughter went to school. I'm home bound, disabled, but very interested in Criminal Law.

Lynn Jennings

Posted by: Lynn Jennings | Sep 12, 2007 12:11:21 AM

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