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December 14, 2008

ABA "Second Look" Roundtable examining back-end sentencing mechanisms and reforms

I had the honor and privilege last Monday to take part in an amazing event put together by the ABA, which focused on back-end sentencing issues. Here is an effective summary of the event provided by its chief organizer, Margaret Colgate Love:

On December 8, 2008, the ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions sponsored an all-day Roundtable on back-end mechanisms for sentence modification in the federal system, through clemency and statutory "second look" mechanisms short of parole. The wide-ranging discussion raised basic questions about the validity of determinate sentencing theory, particularly when prison sentences are lengthy, and discussed the on-going revision of the Model Penal Code's Sentencing Articles. The Roundtable was moderated by John Jay College President Jeremy Travis, and Justice Anthony Kennedy participated in its afternoon session.

Papers presented for discussion by the Roundtable explored the theoretical, practical, and political challenges presented by introducing sentence reduction mechanisms into a determinate sentencing system. Topics included:

  • The role of executive clemency in determinate sentencing structures, and the political and administrative challenges of making clemency operational;
  • Existing statutory sentence reduction mechanisms in federal law, including sentence reduction for "extraordinary and compelling reasons" under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A)(i), and retroactive guidelines changes;
  • Treaty transfers and other ways of repatriating non-citizen prisoners; "Second Look" provisions in the revised Model Penal Code/Sentencing Articles;
  • State experiments in structured indeterminate sentencing
  • The role of prison officials in determining sentence length, including earned good time and compassionate release.

Papers and Roundtable proceedings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

December 14, 2008 at 07:46 AM | Permalink


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