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June 11, 2010

Worth reading around the blogosphere

There are lots of great new posts at two of my new favorite criminal law blogs, Prison Law Blog and SentencingSpeak. I especially liked these two recent posts from these sites:

Also worth checking out are these notable sentencing posts from some other old-favorite blog settings:

June 11, 2010 at 09:48 AM | Permalink

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Both posts are clueless.

The Prison Law Blog post says, "She says she’ll 'oppose early release' — never mind that most of California’s inmates are serving determinate sentences and can’t be released early anyway."

Sure they can, if the Legislature changes the law, which is precisely the controversy. They can, also, if the Supreme Court doesn't reverse the release order issued by the criminals' dream team of 3 federal judges.

The "app for that" post uses the term "non-violent offender" in a way that implies that any person whose offense of commitment is classified as nonviolent can be release without any compromising of public safety, which is utter nonsense.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 11, 2010 1:54:32 PM

The Pardon Power one's a little weak too. Iran has pardoned 81 people for their role in election protests. Wow, what a progressive regime! Maybe next they'll pardon Jews for not paying a head tax? I hope this merciful outlook extends to Saudi Arabia as well, so that the next child rape victim will evade receiving lashes for being raped.

I imagine the pardons don't mean much to the protestors whose brief jail terms ended a summary trial and a rope...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jun 11, 2010 2:49:21 PM

Kent - Thanks for reading and for your feedback on my post about Meg Whitman's platform. I think you've missed my point, though - I wouldn't be criticizing Whitman's platform if she portrayed the problems facing California accurately, as you do in your comments, even if I disagreed with her proposed solutions. The details you add in your comments are precisely the details missing from Whitman's platform, and they're not trivial details.

Yes, obviously the Legislature could totally revamp California sentencing law, but that seems unlikely, and in any event, if that's really what she's afraid of, then Whitman should say that she'd oppose such a change - not traffic in buzzwords like "early release" as though California's prisons could just throw the doors open tomorrow if they wanted to. This fuels misconceptions that are widespread out here in the Golden State and makes it hard to have a serious policy debate.

The federal court order is (as you know) not a "release order" but an order to reduce the prison population, which could be achieved through some legislative provision for early release but also (and more likely) through parole reform (especially given California's system of parole which keeps far more released offenders on parole supervision, for longer, than any other state) and front-end sentencing reform to keep people from going to prison in the first place. In any event, Whitman's platform doesn't mention the federal court order. Which is curious, since it would seem like a tailor-made opportunity for her to criticize federal court meddling or some such -- and so, her failure even to mention this most important constraint on criminal justice policy reform in California further leads me to wonder whether her platform was developed in serious consideration of the specifics of California's prison crisis, or just by cobbling together political talking points.

Anyway, thanks again for reading. I surely hope that California's next governor comes up with a comprehensive plan for alleviating the prison crisis and if Whitman's plan is indeed the solution, I would be delighted to be proven wrong. But California has had one expert panel after another make the same suggestions for fixing the prisons over the past 20 years or so, including comprehensive parole reform -- and these are panels including people like former Gov. Deukmejian, whose "tough-on-crime" bona fides I don't think anyone would challenge -- and I'm disappointed that Whitman's platform, at least as currently on her website, doesn't seem to take seriously the magnitude of the problem or grapple with what sets California apart from other states. It just seems like a generic criminal justice platform, written so vaguely that it could be cut-and-pasted into any campaign in in any state.

Posted by: Sara Mayeux | Jun 11, 2010 3:08:54 PM

Early release through legislation is not only a substantial possibility, it has already begun. For example, our Legislature in its wisdom (or lack thereof) converted the credits formerly known as worktime into warm body credits. A determinate sentence is reduced simply for remaining above room temperature. See Cal. Penal Code §2933, before and after amendment by SB 18, 1/25/10.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 11, 2010 6:10:47 PM

"The federal court order is (as you know) not a 'release order'...."

The order is a "prisoner release order" as defined in the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. §3626(g)(4).

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 11, 2010 6:51:58 PM

Hi! I'm a South African inmate who has been sentenced to 22 years imprisonment on the 03 February 2005.
My problem is; I was arrested on the 15 September 2004 when the Correctional Services Act 8 of 1959 was in operation(this Act allows inmates to serve at least 1/3 of their sentence before they can be considered for parole.)
Then inmates who were sentenced after the 1st of October 2004 are to serve 1/2 of their sentence (that is according to the new act, the Correctional Services Act 111 of1998).
I'm told I should serve 1/2 of my sentence before I can be considered for parole.
I think it is unfair to me because when they change the Act I was already behind bars. Our constitution, (setion 35 (3)(n)) states that: "Eery accused person has a right to a fair trail, which includes the right to the benefit of the least severe of the prescribed punishments if the prescribed punishment for the offence has been changed between the time that the offence was committed and the time of sentencing."
Ain't the Magistrate supposed to considered that the Act has been changed when sentencing me? Don't you think he was supposed to order that my sentence be calculated in accordance with Act 8 of 1959 by the time he impose the sentence?
I want to challenge this issue. Please kindly advice me.

Posted by: Puff Ntate | Mar 17, 2012 1:31:16 AM

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