Sunday, December 23, 2012
"The Presumption of Punishment"The title of this post is the title of this interesting-looking new piece by Shima Baradaran which is now up on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The presumption of innocence undergirds the American criminal justice system. It is so fundamental that it is derived from the concepts of due process and the importance of a fair trial. An informed historical understanding of the interaction between the presumption of innocence and key tenets of due process can help clarify the meaning and application of the presumption of innocence in the modern day.
Due Process, as developed throughout English and U.S. Colonial history leading up to the formation of the U.S. Constitution, has two important implications. First, due process provides a general guarantee of liberty against punishment or imprisonment without a fair trial. Second, due process requires that a jury, as opposed to a judge, determine the factual guilt of a defendant at trial. These two key tenets were historically fundamental to due process and should guide how the presumption of innocence impacts various stages of trial, including pretrial detention decisions and sentencing. Returning to a historical understanding of due process requires that judges not determine facts or punish individuals before a trial has occurred.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Latest OSJCL issue with "McClesky at 25" symposium now available on-line
As noted in this prior prior post, the Fall 2012 issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law has a lead symposium focused on "McClesky at 25." The whole issue is now available on line at this link, and here are all the articles in the symposium:
McClesky at 25 OSJCL Symposium Articles:
Douglas A. Berman, McCleskey at 25: Reexamining the “Fear of Too Much Justice" , 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 1 (2012).
Scott E. Sundby, The Loss of Constitutional Faith: McCleskey v. Kemp and the Dark Side of Procedure, 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 5 (2012).
John H. Blume & Sherri Lynn Johnson, Unholy Parallels between McCleskey v. Kemp and Plessy v. Ferguson: Why McCleskey (Still) Matters, 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 37 (2012).
G. Ben Cohen, McCleskey’s Omission: The Racial Geography of Retribution, 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 65 (2012).
Robert P. Mosteller, Responding to McCleskey and Batson: The North Carolina Racial Justice Act Confronts Racial Peremptory Challenges in Death Cases, 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 103 (2012).
Kent Scheidegger, Rebutting the Myths About Race and the Death Penalty, 10 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 147 (2012).
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The Crime Report lists "Ten Most Significant Criminal Justice Stories of 2012"I always enjoy end-of-the-year Top 10 lists, especially when they deal with matters of crime and punishment. Consequently, I was both excited and intrigued by this lengthy new piece at The Crime Report titled "The Ten Most Significant Criminal Justice Stories of 2012." Here is the set-up to the list, followed by the Top 10 (click through to see discussion of each item on the list):
Even in a year marked by heart-wrenching tragedy, we believe it’s important not to lose sight of developments in criminal justice that promise to improve the lives of millions of Americans — and even make us safer — as we enter 2013.
For our second annual ”Top Ten” list, The Crime Report asked readers, contributors and columnists to join us in nominating the stories and issues they believe have had the most significant impact during 2012 — and will bear watching over the next year.
We won’t pretend the list is definitive. And perhaps, in a reflection of the kind of year it has been, not all the choices represent “positive” impacts.
But as we’ve also noted this year, criminal justice appears to be one of the few areas of our national life where there is broad bipartisan agreement on the shape of an agenda for change.
That’s worth celebrating in 2012.
Later this week, we’ll be running the second part of our annual feature: the top policymakers or newsmakers in criminal justice during 2012....THE 2012 TOP TEN
1. Supreme Court LWOP decision in Miller v Alabama: progress on Juvenile Justice...
2. Passage of Marijuana Legislation in Washington and Colorado...
3. The Connecticut School Shootings and Mass Gun Violence...
4. Trayvon Martin and the intensifying conflict over gun control...
5. Social Impact Bonds and DOJ’s “Investment in Innovation”...
6. Three Strikes Reform in California...
7. Camden (NJ) fires its cops...
8. Connecticut and Capital Punishment...
9. Prison-to-College Pipeline...
10. Pro Bono Requirement for New York Bar...
I personally think #2 on this list is a MUCH bigger deal than anything else on this list. Also, I think the rejection by Californian voters of the effort to repeal the state's death penalty via ballot initiative should be high on this list. And I would love to hear from readers their views on what they think is wrong (or right) about this Top 10 list (which may inform my own end-of-year sentencing law and policy list in the weeks ahead).
Saturday, December 15, 2012
"Peeking Behind the Plea Bargaining Process"The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Laurie Levenson now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The Supreme Court’s rulings in Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, which recognized a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel in plea bargaining, creates new responsibilities for judges, defense counsel and prosecutors. This article explores what those responsibilities are in light of the history and role of plea bargaining in the United States.
Monday, December 10, 2012
"Foreword: Criminal Justice Responses to the Economic Crisis"The title of this post is the title of this SSRN posting that I just came across. Authored by Caren Myers Morrison, the piece previews what will become a must-read symposium (once it comes available on-line). Here is the abstract:
The epidemic rate of incarceration in the United States, long documented, has come at significant financial and social cost. But the global financial crisis has forced legislators and government officials to face issues that they had previously been able to ignore: whether incarceration is the best use of resources to deal with non-violent offenders, whether former inmates should be sent back to prison for violations of conditions of their post-conviction release, rather than for new criminal activity, whether sentences should be so long that the prison population becomes increasingly geriatric. At the same time, taxpayers are beginning to realize that they are not always getting a decent return on their corrections dollar. Crime, and the fear of it, is no longer dominating the domestic agenda. And fiscal conservatives are edging out “tough on crime” rhetoric with proposals to be “smart on crime.”
The goal of the Symposium, held in Atlanta on January 27, 2012, was to bring together a number of scholars and practitioners to see how the moment might be leveraged to produce sustainable change. Cognizant of the ephemeral quality of reform that is solely cost-driven, the participants proposed a variety of solutions that could have staying power, even after the good times return. While controversial, large-scale reforms may remain out of reach, perhaps an accumulation of incremental changes might add up to an overall shift in focus, away from the punitive overreliance on incarceration, and towards a more just, evidence-based and cost-effective justice system.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Terrific symposium in latest issue of the Journal of Legal EducationThough I always enjoy reading the Journal of Legal Education, I was especially excited to see that JLE's November 2012 issue starts with a symposium titled "Teaching Mass Incarceration." Here is a summary from the JLE's introduction of the pieces in the symposium (with links inserted):
The issue begins with a Symposium on “Teaching Mass Incarceration,” a subject that has received considerable attention from activists and some from mainstream media but is remarkably absent from the law school curriculum. Giovanna Shay opens with a case study of “Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy,” a teaching vehicle for bringing prison inmates and law students into one course, building student engagement and inspiring open-minded discussion that forces students to move beyond knee-jerk politics and clichés [available here]. The second article in the Symposium, by Sharon Dolovich, makes a powerful case for teaching the “law governing prisons,” the “back-end” of the criminal justice system and the law applicable to 2.3 million Americans, of whom a huge disproportion are African-Americans — arguably a front line in civil rights advocacy today [available here]. The third article, by Teresa A. Miller, entitled “Encountering Attica,” explores documentary film-making to transform the dialogue of the “inside-out class” into a vehicle for reaching much larger audiences [available here]. Readers of these contributions will be hard-pressed to deny the case for more visibility and engagement with mass incarceration and the means to accomplish those goals.
I thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from all three of these articles, and I encourage even those not in the ivory tower to check them out.
Monday, November 26, 2012
First articles in OSJCL symposium on "McClesky at 25" now up at SSRN
I am very pleased to report that two articles from the Fall 2012 issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law are now available via SSRN. There are an especially large number of terrific pieces in this issue, all of which I will be praising and promoting when the full issue comes on-line in the next few days. But, because the articles already on SSRN come from the lead symposium focused on "McClesky at 25," I will start shining the spotlight now for sentencing fans:
Twenty-five years after it was decided, a legal scholar can still use McCleskey v. Kemp as shorthand for a Supreme Court decision that failed to protect the Constitution’s most basic values. This Article uses Justice Powell’s papers to gain new insight into how an opinion came to be written that engendered so much criticism. What emerges is a sense of how Justice Powell’s belief in the legal system, when coupled with his distrust of “statistical jurisprudence,” led him to place his faith in legal procedures despite statistical evidence that racial bias was infecting the death penalty. McCleskey is thus an important lesson that procedure, despite its many benefits, can have a dark side if it becomes a veneer obscuring injustice.
Justice Powell’s opinion, especially the final section of the decision, also provides important lessons about how a judicial opinion communicates messages that reach beyond the holding itself. Indeed, the Article compares Powell’s opinion to the concurrence that Justice Scalia proposed but never wrote -- a concurrence that would have acknowledged that “irrational sympathies and antipathies including racial” inevitably enter a capital jury’s decision, but then would have found no constitutional violation. The Article ultimately asks: although Scalia’s position might have provoked outrage, might not its candor in the long run have produced a more constructive response than Powell’s opinion which appeared to adopt a position of willful blindness towards the existence of racial bias?
G. Ben Cohen, McCleskey's Omission: The Racial Geography of Retribution:
Twenty-five years after the Court in McCleskey refrained from addressing the overwhelming evidence that race, and particularly the race of the victim, plays a role in the administration of the death penalty, with no corrective measures taken to ensure that the worst of the worst offenders receive the death penalty, the death penalty in America is as arbitrary as it ever was.
This article suggests that while both the majority and the dissent in McCleskey noted the history of racism in the South, neither confronted the manner in which racism was imbedded in the goal of retribution, nor reconciled the sordid history of lynching with the modern system of capital punishment. A careful examination of death sentences in the modern era reflects that racism arises at a county rather than a state level. The author suggests that the history of lynching, especially in the deep south, is inexorably connected to retribution.
Future challenges to the constitutionality of capital punishment should address the validity of retribution as a basis for imposing the death penalty and the impact that desire for retribution has on county-level administration of the death penalty.
The United States Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, calls for further inquiry concerning the role of retribution in supporting the validity of the capital punishment. In Kennedy, the Court warned that “retribution” “most often can contradict the law’s own ends . . . When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint.”
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Holiday reading for sentencing fans in Harvard Law Review SCOTUS issue
The Harvard Law Review's annual Supreme Court review issue is now available here on line, and there are at least three pieces that should be of special interest to sentencing fans.
Professor Stephanos Bibas has this comment on Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye which is titled "Incompetent Plea Bargaining and Extrajudicial Reforms." In addition, the HLR staff has case comments labelled "Factfinding in Sentencing for Criminal Fines: Southern Union Co. v. United States" and "Mandatory Juvenile Life Without Parole: Miller v. Alabama."
Friday, November 16, 2012
Reform advice for Prez Obama's second term at The Crime Report
The folks at The Crime Report have recently posted this group of terrific commentaries with post-election advice for President Obama:
A Post-Election Justice Reform Agenda by Glenn E. Martin
Will the President Heed the Call For Justice Reform? by Vanita Gupta and Ezekiel Edwards
It’s Time to Address Federal Prison Overcrowding by Matthew Mangino
Obama Can Alter the Landscape of Criminal Law by Bruce Barket
Monday, October 15, 2012
"John Paul Stevens, Originalist"The title of this post is the title of this intriguing paper now on SSRN by Professor (and former Stevens clerk) Diane Marie Amann. Here is the abstract:
I must note that this Essay mentions Baze in its discussion of Justice Stevens as an originalist, but makes no mention of Apprendi. For that reason, I suspect that this piece is more provocative than comprehensive in making the case for a special kind of Stevens-filtered originalism. Still, with the last section of the Essay headed "Justice Stevens, Justice Scalia, and the Substance of Liberty," I think this is still a must-read.
Commentators, including the author of a recent book on the Supreme Court, often attempt to give each Justice a methodological label, such as "practitioner of judicial restraint," "legal realist," "pragmatist," or "originalist." This Essay first demonstrates that none of the first three labels applies without fail to Justice John Paul Stevens; consequently, it explores the extent to which Justice Stevens's jurisprudence paid heed to the fourth method, "originalism." It looks in particular at Justice Stevens's opinions in recent cases involving firearms, national security, and capital punishment. Somewhat at odds with conventional wisdom, the Essay reveals Justice Stevens as a kind of originalist -- as a Justice duty-bound to identify and enforce principles, such as liberty and fairness, that the Framers embedded in the Constitution. To do so, Justice Stevens has practiced a fifth methodology, one that synthesizes many sources and interpretive techniques in an effort to reach a decision that serves a contemporary understanding of justice.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
"Crime, Weather, and Climate Change"The title of this post is the title of this notable paper by Matthew Ranson available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This paper estimates the impact of climate change on the prevalence of criminal activity in the United States. The analysis is based on a 50-year panel of monthly crime and weather data for 2,972 U.S. counties. I identify the effect of weather on monthly crime by using a semi-parametric bin estimator and controlling for county-by-month and county-by-year fixed effects. The results show that temperature has a strong positive effect on criminal behavior, with little evidence of lagged impacts. Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 30,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, 1.4 million aggravated assaults, 2.2 million simple assaults, 400,000 robberies, 3.2 million burglaries, 3.0 million cases of larceny, and 1.3 million cases of vehicle theft in the United States.
Yikes! Well, I guess the good news is that I can now think of my Prius as a crime-fighting machine.
Seriously, I have long understood there are important connections between weather and crime, and perhaps this article provides (still more) justification for climate change advocates to consider seizing upon a "tough on crime" mantra.
Recent related post:
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Deep thoughts on deep punishment theory via SSRNOne of many reasons I like finding time to read papers on punishment theory is to see if and how new deep thoughts can be presented on a deep subject that has been debated since the start of recorded history. And, thanks to SSRN, here are two more new entries with deep thoughts on deep punishment theory:
More on the Comparative Nature of Desert: Can a Deserved Punishment Be Unjust? by Ronen Avraham & Daniel Statman
From the Consulting Room to the Court Room? Taking the Clinical Model of Responsibility Without Blame into the Legal Realm by Nicola Lacey & Hanna Pickard
Saturday, September 08, 2012
"Retribution as Revenge and Retribution as Just Deserts"The title of this post is the title of this interesting looking new article now up at SSRN authored by Monica Gerber and Jonathan Jackson. Here is the abstract:
Public attitudes towards law-breakers shape the tone and tenor of crime-control policy. The desire for retribution seems to be the main motivation underpinning punitive attitudes towards sentencing, yet there is some confusion in the research literature over what retribution really means. In this paper we distinguish between retribution as revenge (as the desire to punish criminal offenders to retaliate a past wrong by making the offender suffer) and retribution as just deserts (as the preference to restore justice through proportional compensation from the offender).
Results from an online survey (n=176) provide evidence of two distinct dimensions of retribution, but we also show that these two dimensions have different ideological and motivational antecedents, and have different consequences in terms of the treatment of criminal offender. We find that retribution as revenge is associated with the motivation to enforce status boundaries with criminal offenders, as well as ideological preferences for power and dominance (as expressed by social dominance orientation) and in-group conformity (as expressed by right-wing authoritarianism). Endorsement of retribution as revenge also predicts the support of harsh punishment and the willingness to deny fair procedures. By contrast, retribution as just deserts is mainly predicted by a value restoration motive and by right-wing authoritarianism. After controlling for revenge, retribution as just deserts predicts support for procedural justice in the criminal courts. We conclude with the idea that beliefs about proportionality and compensation work as a buffer against the negative effects of revenge.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
"Reality-Challenged Philosophies of Punishment"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by the always terrifically interesting Professor Robert Weisberg. This piece is now available via SSRN, and here is the abstract:
This paper, derived from the 2012 Barrock Lecture delivered at Marquette University Law School, explores the radical disconnection between the contemporary jurisprudence of punishment in the American academy and the raw facts of American imprisonment, the condition generally decried as “mass incarceration.” Most obviously, retributivism, which has been the dominant purported rationale for American punishment over the last 40 years and also the dominant force modern philosophical debates about the purposes of punishment, pays virtually no heed to the anomaly that we have the highest imprisonment rate in the nation’s history and arguably the highest in the world. More specifically, while relying on assumptions about moral desert and proportionate penalty, retributivism ignores that our system takes its heaviest toll on, and arguably worsens the social and economic condition of, poor minority men of limited education, and that it imposes a lifetime economic penalty far behind the loss of liberty and income during the time of incarceration.
Thus, I pose the general question of in what sense philosophies of punishment should be “accountable” for the facts of the real world. Did academic retributivism influence the rise of political retributivism as a force behind our increased reliance on prison? Can retributivism justify the arguably disproportionate penalties imposed on prisoners, once we take lifetime economic disruption and wider metastatic effects into account? Or should retributivists criticize modern imprisonment precisely because it does not survive retributivist scrutiny, or, in light of those facts, does it need to revise its notions of desert and penalty? In addition, I ask whether deterrence theory or incapacitation theory can explain or justify the state of imprisonment, and whether rehabilitation is a meaningful concept in a world where the experience of imprisonment probably does nothing to reduce future crime except by incapacitating inmates until they are too old to be dangerous. Overall, I argue that philosophies of punishment must engage in some dialectical self-scrutiny at a time of our incarceration anomaly.
"Entrenchment and/or Destabilization? Reflections on (Another) Two Decades of Constitutional Regulation of Capital Punishment"
The title of this post is the title of this latest and greatest must-read piece about the state and future of the US death penalty coming from Professors Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker. Here is the abstract:
In this article, we revisit our 1995 analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s death penalty jurisprudence (Sober Second Thoughts: Reflections on Two Decades of Constitutional Regulation of Capital Punishment, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 357) in light of the steep decline in death sentences and executions over the past decade. Our consideration of the causes of this precipitous and unexpected turnaround leads us to the surprising conclusion that the same regulatory reforms of the modern (post-1976) era that we earlier described as legitimating and entrenching the practice of capital punishment have also contributed to its recent destabilization.
We contrast the effects of the death penalty reforms of prior generations -- such as narrowing the scope of death-eligible crimes, making death sentences discretionary rather than mandatory, privatizing and centralizing executions, and improving execution methods -- with the reforms of the modern era of constitutional regulation. The reforms of the modern era have vastly increased the regulation and cost of the death penalty, required the professionalization of the capital litigation bar, led to lengthy periods of time between sentencing and execution, increased the focus on mitigation in capital trials, and contributed to the proliferation of life-without-parole as an alternative to the death sentence. We argue that the current regime represents a fundamental break with past modes of regulating capital punishment in ways that render the current American death penalty unstable, indeed precarious. We explore the implications of these insights for two broader debates -- the first about the relationship between reform and abolition, and the second about the causes of American “exceptionalism” with regard to capital punishment.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
"Crime, Punishment, and the Psychology of Self-Control"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Rebecca E. Hollander-Blumoff now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Criminal law rests on the assumption that individuals — most of the time — have free will. They act in ways that they choose to act, exercising control over their own behavior. Despite this central role of free will and self-control in the conceptualization of criminal responsibility, criminal law scholars have not, to date, considered the implications of decades of research in social psychology on the mechanisms of self-control. This article suggests that examining current social psychology research on self-control offers a novel way to amplify our thinking about crime and punishment, helping to make sense of the way that the law has developed, casting doubt on the descriptive validity of legal perspectives on self-control and crime, and offering potential guidance as we think about appropriate levels of culpability and punishment.
Two important broad insights come from examining this psychological research. First, by considering self-control failure at the micro level — in a particular moment of action or inaction — psychological research on self-control helps uncouple self-control questions from broader questions about the existence of free will. The roots of failure to control one’s behavior, important though they may be, are separate from the question of an individual’s ability to do so at a specific time and place. Psychology’s robust findings on the fine-grained aspects of self-control suggest that self-control is a concept with meaning and usefulness for the law, regardless of one’s viewpoint about the existence of free will. Second, taking psychological research on self-control seriously indicates that criminal law may vastly underdescribe the scope of situations in which an individual lacks the ability to control her actions. That is, acts that the law calls “uncontrolled” are a mere subset of the behavior that psychology would call “uncontrolled.” The mismatch between the scope of self-control as described by psychology and criminal law helps to highlight that notions of self-control in the law are inherently constructed by the law itself, rather than reflecting some empirical reality, and that any efforts to define and understand the concept and role of self-control in law as purely positive, rather than normative, are misguided.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Hearty welcome to a timely new blog: "Juvenile Justice Blog"
I am very pleased to welcome to the blogosphere Juvenile Justice Blog, a fantastic looking new blog by UNC law prof Tamar Birckhead. Here is how Tamar, whose blog bio is available here, describes her new blog creation:
The purpose of this blog is to provide a central source for the latest news, information, scholarship, and commentary on issues related to juvenile justice in the United States.
It is intended for lawyers, academics, advocates, students, and all others interested in juvenile court practice, the fair sentencing of youth, and the criminalization of poverty, among other related topics.
If you would like to see something posted that fits within these themes, please email the blog administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org. As this is a work in progress, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and comments.
There is already a lot of great content on JJB. And with a big SCOTUS ruling on the constitutional of juve LWOP coming wihtin the week, I am sure to make JJB a daily read in the weeks ahead.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Lots new to check out over at The Crime Report
Regular readers may be tired of hearing my recommendation that every sentencing fan should should make regular visits to The Crime Report. But these items, all posted in just the last day, provide more support for my advice:
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Call for papers for ABA/AALS joint conference this Fall in DC
I have been really intrigued and impressed by special criminal justice programs that have been put together by the ABA each fall over the last few years. To its credit, the ABA has made a special effort in these events to connect criminal justice practitioners and academics (as evidenced by the speakers brought together at last year's event). Consequently, I am pleased to be able to promoted this "Call for Papers — Criminal Justice" in conjunction with this year's planned event:
On Oct. 25-26, 2012, the ABA and the AALS will present a joint conference on criminal justice at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. The first event of the conference, on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 25, is a workshop for scholarly papers relating to criminal justice. All papers on criminal law, criminal procedure, or criminal justice topics are welcome.
Participants will present their work in a roundtable format, and abstracts or drafts will be shared among presenters and discussants in advance of the workshop. Workshop presenters must also attend the criminal justice panels on Friday, Oct. 26. This is an excellent opportunity for academics at any stage of their careers, or those who would like to transition to academia, to workshop pieces at an early stage of development or obtain feedback on more developed pieces. Workshop presenters will be responsible for their own travel and hotel costs, and will be required to pay the conference registration fee.
To apply to workshop a paper, please email an abstract of your paper of no more than 500 words to both Michael Mannheimer at email@example.com and Laurent Sacharoff at firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 15, 2012. Space is limited and presenters will be chosen by members of the organizing committee.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Professor Bibas guest-blogging on "The Machinery of Criminal Justice"
Especially because I am heading out on a Spring Break trip that will soon lessen my (daytime) blogging opportunities, I am very pleased to be able to welcome Professor Stephanos Bibas as a guest-blogger to discuss sentencing issues raised by his terrific new book my new book, titled "The Machinery of Criminal Justice," which was just published by Oxford University Press and is available here. (Though I have not yet had a chance to read the entire book, I feel confident already describing the book as terrific based on the introduction available here via SSRN and based on the guest-blogging Stephanos has already done recently in this series of posts at The Volokh Conspiracy.)
For those interested in the broad array of topics that Stephanos takes on in this book (and everyone should be), I highly encourage whetting your appetite by checking out the posts already up at Volokh (or at least this provocative first one in the series). Here is a key theme from the book mentioned set forth in that post: "without much thought, we have drifted over the past four centuries from the colonial morality play to the modern criminal justice machine. There’s no question that professionalization has brought tangible benefits, especially the ability to handle staggering caseloads. What I want you to see, however, is the price we have paid to purchase more and more efficiency."
Stephanos reports he will be covering a lot of different ground in this blog space than he did at Volokh. As he put it in an e-mail to me, he plans to cover different aspects of the book likely to be of even more interest to sentencing fans, "especially the shift from temporary punishments to prison, the frustration that causes, and various reforms to punishments (work / military service, collateral consequences, reentry)." I am very happy to be lending this space for this great use and very excited to see what Stephanos has to say.
(I hope and expect to do still do some additional blogging while on the road over the next few days, but I cannot predict how much or how often, especially because I also have a fantasy baseball draft for which to prepare.)
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Notable new blog on wrongful convictions
I wanted to let you know that several of us involved in the Innocence Movement launched a new blog today, The Wrongful Convictions Blog. The web address is www.wrongfulconvictionsblog.org, or you can just click the link above.
The purposes of the blog are to (1) provide one place where you can go to get all the news and info about wrongful convictions, and (2) foster discussion, debate, and learning. You will see that we have contributing editors from all over the world, thus the tagline is: "Addressing Wrongful Conviction and Actual Innocence Issues in an International Forum." There is a place for comments and debate on each post....
The blog will involve more than just news and links. We will also have frequent commentaries/editorials on various topics, such as the commentaries up now about forensic odontologists attempting to validate their "science," the state of junk science generally, reacting to prosecutorial misconduct, and conviction integrity units at prosecutor's offices.
A quick review of the new blog shows right away that there will be lots of notable and important internation perspectives covered in this space. That reality, together with the terrific group of persons involved with the blog, means I will be sure to make this new resource a regular stop in my blogosphere travels.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Lots to read about American sentencing development on this patriotic day off
For reasons I only partially understand, I have a regular teaching day at my law school; it seems nearly all other government-linked institutions have an extra day to their weekend thanks to our nation's greatest presidents. Fortunately, for those sentencing fans looking to find a productive way to spend this extra day off, there are lots of new papers on SSRN worth giving a look. Here is just an abridged list of pieces recently added to SSRN that I hope I might soon find time to read:
The Failure of Parole: Rethinking the Role of the State in Reentry by Christine S. Scott-Hayward
Protecting Liberty and Autonomy: Desert/Disease Jurisprudence by Stephen Morse
Thursday, February 02, 2012
New report from The Sentencing Project on latest state-level sentencing reforms
I received news of this notable new report on state-level sentencing reforms coming from The Sentencing Project. The report is titled “The State of Sentencing 2011: Developments in Policy and Practice,” is authored by Nicole Porter, and is summarized this way via the e-mail I got yesterday:
The report highlights 55 reforms in 29 states and documents a growing trend to reform sentencing policies and scale back the use of imprisonment without compromising public safety. The report provides an overview of recent policy reforms in the areas of sentencing, probation and parole, collateral consequences, and juvenile justice. Highlights include:
• Sentence modifications - Four states -- Connecticut, Ohio, Nebraska, and North Dakota -- established sentence modification mechanisms that allow correctional officials to reduce the prison sentences of eligible prisoners;
• Drug offense reforms - Four states -- Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, and Ohio -- revised penalties for certain drug offenses and authorized alternatives to prison as a sentencing option in specified circumstances. In addition, Idaho and Florida expanded the eligibility criteria for drug courts in order to expand their impact.
• Death penalty - Illinois abolished the death penalty, becoming the sixteenth state to eliminate the sentencing option;
• Probation revocation reforms - North Carolina restricted the use of prison as a sentencing option for certain persons who violate the conditions of probation; and
• Juvenile offender sentencing reforms - Georgia authorized sentence modifications for certain juvenile defendants with felony offenses by allowing judges to depart from the statutory range when considering the youth’s background.
Friday, November 11, 2011
"Blind Goddess": a new reader on race and criminal justice
Via an e-mail for the folks at The Sentencing Project, I have learned of this new book on note titled "Blind Goddess: A Reader on Race and Justice." The book has edited selections from a broad range of scholars and advocates discussing racial dynamics intersect with the criminal justice system. Here is a summary of the work from the publisher's website:
Blind Goddess brings together the most significant writings of practitioners, professors, and advocates to make sense of what is perhaps the nation’s most astonishing and shameful achievement: the highest per-capita incarceration rate anywhere in the world compounded by the shockingly disproportionate imprisonment of poor people of color. Although there is growing awareness of the huge fiscal cost of mass incarceration, the moral, human, and social devastation of racially skewed law enforcement remains largely unrecognized.
Featuring many of today’s premier legal scholars, experts, and writers—among them David Cole, Glenn C. Loury, Bob Herbert, and Lani Guinier—here is a boundary-pushing book that elucidates the impact of race on each stage of the criminal process. From policing and prosecuting to jury selection, sentencing, prison conditions, and reentering society, Blind Goddess is an essential volume for the general reader and an ideal reality check for students of criminal law. With selections from critically acclaimed contemporary works including Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Paul Butler’s Let’s Get Free, Amy Bach’s Ordinary Injustice, and Robert Perkinson’s Texas Tough, Blind Goddess provides easy access to a wealth of cutting-edge analyses and concrete solutions.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Effective new report on effective state-level sentencing and corrections reforms
Thanks to this post at Right on Crime, I discovered that the "National Governor’s Association (NGA) recently released an analysis of state-level sentencing and corrections reforms." This analysis is a 26-page Issue Brief titled "State Efforts in Sentencing and Corrections Reform," and here is the report's executive summary:
States continue to struggle during what is the most difficult fiscal environment since the Great Depression. Projections are that the economic recovery will be slow, forcing states to think longterm about how to do more with less. Full economic recovery may not happen until the end of the decade. With corrections among states’ largest expenditures, many are rethinking their approaches to sentencing and corrections practices as they seek to constrain spending.
Between 2009 and 2010, at least 40 states made cuts to general fund expenditures for corrections. They are reducing staff salaries, benefits, or overtime, eliminating prison programs, and making food-service changes. Furthermore, states have been increasingly focused on finding ways to decrease overall prison populations. Given that the average prison bed now costs $29,000 a year, they are looking for ways to reduce the number of nonviolent and low-risk individuals going to prison, to move offenders who can be safely managed in the community out of prison sooner, and to keep ex-offenders out of prison through improved prisoner reentry practices.
Ultimately, states aim to reduce prison populations enough to allow them to close prisons. States are accomplishing reductions through sentencing reform, efforts to reduce offender recidivism, and parole and probation reform. For example:
- South Carolina approved a sentencing reform package in 2010 that the state estimates will reduce the need to build and operate new prison beds by 1,786, saving up to $241 million by reducing incarceration of nonviolent offenders and more closely supervising released inmates to reduce recidivism;
- Nevada saved $38 million in operating expenditures by FY 2009 and avoided $1.2 billion in new prison construction by making key sentencing reforms, including expanding the number of credits inmates could earn for “good time” and the number of credits those on community supervision could earn for complying with conditions; and
- Kentucky passed legislation expected to save the state $422 million over the next decade by diverting certain drug offenders into treatment rather than prison and reserving prison space for violent and career criminals.
The challenge to states is to make cuts in corrections spending while maintaining public safety. Fortunately, there now exists a significant body of research about which sentencing and corrections practices work and which do not. Research shows that implementation of evidence-based practices leads to an average decrease in crime of between 10 percent and 20 percent. Programs that are not evidence-based, on the other hand, tend to see no decrease or even a slight increase in crime.
States can use that knowledge to make more informed decisions about which policies and programs to support as they seek to reduce spending on corrections. This Issue Brief provides an overview of the cost drivers behind corrections expenditures and identifies critical decision-points for states to consider as they take action to reduce costs. It also examines challenges to enacting reforms and makes recommendations for states looking to improve public safety with fewer resources. Those recommendations include:
- Pursue an approach to reform that involves coordination and collaboration among state executive, legislative, and judicial branches;
- Adopt evidence-based practices proven to reduce recidivism and eliminate programs shown to be ineffective or harmful;
- Target high-risk offenders and tailor sentencing, treatment, and release decisions to individual risk factors;
- Support mandatory supervision and treatment in the community; and
- Use real-time data and information for decision-making.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
"Marriage as Punishment"
The title of this post is the title of this forthcoming article by Professor Melissa Murray now available on SSRN. As the abstract reveals, this piece a serious discussion of interesting issues (though the title might sound like the punchline of a bad joke among rowdy bachelors):
Popular discourse portrays marriage as a source of innumerable public and private benefits, happiness, companionship, financial security, and even good health. Complementing this view, our legal discourse frames the right to marry as a right of access, the exercise of which is an act of autonomy and free will. However, a closer look at marriage’s past reveals a more complicated portrait. Marriage has been used -- and importantly, continues to be used -- as state-imposed sexual discipline.
Until the mid-twentieth century, marriage played an important role in the crime of seduction. Enacted in a majority of U.S. jurisdictions in the nineteenth century, seduction statutes punished those who 'seduced and had sexual intercourse with an unmarried female of previously chaste character' under a 'promise of marriage.' Seduction statutes routinely prescribed a bar to prosecution for the offense: marriage. The defendant could simply marry the victim and avoid liability for the crime. However, marriage did more than serve as a bar to prosecution. It also was understood as a punishment for the crime. Just as incarceration promoted the internalization of discipline and reform of the inmate, marriage’s attendant legal and social obligations imposed upon defendant and victim a new disciplined identity, transforming them from sexual outlaws into in-laws.
The history of marriage as punishment offers important insights for contemporary discussions of marriage. It reveals the way in which our current discourses of marriage are naïve and incomplete, emphasizing marriage’s many attributes while downplaying its role as a vehicle of state-imposed sexual discipline. In view of this history, our contemporary jurisprudence on the right to marry can be reread to reveal the disciplinary strains that continue to undergird marriage and the right to marry. Most importantly, this history reveals that state regulation of sex and sexuality has been a totalizing endeavor, relying on marriage and criminal law as two essential domains for disciplining and regulating sexuality.
With this in mind, the recent struggle for marriage equality seems unduly narrow. While achieving marriage equality is important, this history underscores an equally important interest in defining and preserving spaces for sexual liberty that exist beyond the disciplining domains of the state.
Monday, November 07, 2011
"Moral Imagination in Judging"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper now posted on SSRN by Professor Susan Bandes. Though not discussing sentencing directly, I have long thought that discussion of theories of judging — and particular debates over whether judges are like umpires or should have empathy — are especially interesting when considered through the lens of sentencing law, policy and practice. Here is this paper's abstract:
The debate over the role of empathy in judging has revealed a tenaciously hardy folk conception of judicial deliberation and the judicial role. This concept is most crudely captured in Chief Justice Roberts’ well-known “umpire” metaphor, in which judges leave all their preconceptions and values behind and simply discover and apply the law “as written.” This conception is the legal variant of the hardy philosophical notion that moral reasoning is the process of discovering and applying a system of universal moral laws, and that these laws exist in a realm that transcends individual subjectivity. If laws are universal, timeless and discoverable, then a decision-maker’s attributes, beliefs and values; his or her situatedness in a tradition, a culture, a historical time and place, can only be impediments to rational decision-making.
This notion of rationality has long been a subject of criticism, but few of its critics have had kind words for the role of empathy or moral imagination in the judicial process. Yet empathy and moral imagination implicate questions that go to the heart of longstanding jurisprudential debates. What role should a judge’s prior assumptions and values play in decision-making? What factors are relevant to principled adjudication? How do judges give meaning to spacious, indeterminate terms like due process and equal protection of law? What institutional reforms might serve to improve the quality of the deliberative process? I will argue that the denial of indeterminacy and the myth of the omniscient judge pose significant barriers to the rule of law. The widespread reaction against the role of empathy is based on unrealistic and largely undefended notions of the judicial role and the process of judicial deliberation. More broadly, it reflects assumptions about deliberation that are increasingly out of synch with developing understandings of moral cognition. Empathy and moral imagination, properly understood, are part of the solution to the problem of unaccountable judges interpreting indeterminate law, rather than part of the problem.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Another notable review of "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice"
In this post a few days ago, I blogged about former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens' review the final book written Professor Bill Stuntz, titled "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." I am pleased now to link to another review by another notable former jurist, Paul Cassell, this one appearing in the Wall Street Journal. This review carries the headlined "Crimes, Courts And Cures: Why the justice system does a bad job of separating defendants who deserve punishment from those who don't." The whole review is a must-read, and these final insights close the piece:
"The Collapse of American Criminal Justice" concludes that our system suffers "from the rule of too much law and the wrong kind of politics." Mr. Stuntz recommends a host of reforms, including decentralization that would encourage local control responsive to local crime. He also argues for expanding city police forces — because the increased police presence would discourage the commission of crimes.
But he seems to back away from his argument that excessive proceduralism is part of the problem. While critiquing decisions such as Mapp and Miranda, Mr. Stuntz never urges that they be overturned or restructured, even though such changes could lead to the decentralized decision-making that he supports. Instead, he singles out for overruling Supreme Court precedents limiting equal-protection argument by defendants. He targets United States v. Armstrong, for example, which barred drug dealers from arguing that prosecutors must be racially discriminating when statistics indicate disparities in charges being brought. But overturning the law would lead to precisely the kind of procedural litigation that Mr. Stuntz deplores.
Nonetheless, the overarching themes of "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice" deserve wide discussion, and the book as a whole can be rightly seen as the capstone to a distinguished legal career. Americans may debate whether our criminal-justice system has truly collapsed, but few would argue that it can't be improved.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Former Justice Stevens reviews late Professor Stuntz's "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice"
In the new issue of the The New York Review of Books, Former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens reviews the final book written Professor Bill Stuntz, which is titled "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice." This terrific and lengthy review is headlined "Our ‘Broken System’ of Criminal Justice," and here is how it starts and finishes:
William Stuntz was the popular and well-respected Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard University. He finished his manuscript of The Collapse of American Criminal Justice shortly before his untimely death earlier this year. The book is eminently readable and merits careful attention because it accurately describes the twin problems that pervade American criminal justice today — its overall severity and its disparate treatment of African-Americans.
The book contains a wealth of overlooked or forgotten historical data, perceptive commentary on the changes in our administration of criminal justice over the years, and suggestions for improvement. While virtually everything that Professor Stuntz has written is thought-provoking and constructive, I would not characterize the defects in American criminal justice that he describes as a “collapse,” and I found his chapter about “Earl Warren’s Errors” surprisingly unpersuasive.
Rather than focus on particular criminal laws, the book emphasizes the importance of the parts that different decision-makers play in the administration of criminal justice. Stuntz laments the fact that criminal statutes have limited the discretionary power of judges and juries to reach just decisions in individual cases, while the proliferation and breadth of criminal statutes have given prosecutors and the police so much enforcement discretion that they effectively define the law on the street....
Professor Stuntz’s account of the “collapse” of an overgrown system of criminal law enforcement is well worth reading. It is full of interesting historical discussion. It accurately describes the magnitude of the twin injustices in the administration of our criminal law. It should motivate voters and legislators to take action to minimize those injustices.
The publisher's website for Stuntz's book has this summary overview of the book and its themes:
The rule of law has vanished in America’s criminal justice system. Prosecutors now decide whom to punish and how severely. Almost no one accused of a crime will ever face a jury. Inconsistent policing, rampant plea bargaining, overcrowded courtrooms, and ever more draconian sentencing have produced a gigantic prison population, with black citizens the primary defendants and victims of crime. In this passionately argued book, the leading criminal law scholar of his generation looks to history for the roots of these problems — and for their solutions.
The Collapse of American Criminal Justice takes us deep into the dramatic history of American crime — bar fights in nineteenth-century Chicago, New Orleans bordellos, Prohibition, and decades of murderous lynching. Digging into these crimes and the strategies that attempted to control them, Stuntz reveals the costs of abandoning local democratic control. The system has become more centralized, with state legislators and federal judges given increasing power. The liberal Warren Supreme Court’s emphasis on procedures, not equity, joined hands with conservative insistence on severe punishment to create a system that is both harsh and ineffective.
What would get us out of this Kafkaesque world? More trials with local juries; laws that accurately define what prosecutors seek to punish; and an equal protection guarantee like the one that died in the 1870s, to make prosecution and punishment less discriminatory. Above all, Stuntz eloquently argues, Americans need to remember again that criminal punishment is a necessary but terrible tool, to use effectively, and sparingly.
Friday, October 21, 2011
"Balanced Justice: Cost-Benefit Analysis and Criminal Justice Policy"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research paper from NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity, which urges policymakers to apply more economic analysis and cost/benefit research to criminal justice policy. Here is how the report is described via this webpage:
Crime and justice are not usually associated with cost-benefit analysis. But they should be, according to new research. This is especially true in an economic downturn, when government funding is scarce. In “Balanced Justice,” released jointly with the Center for the Administration of Criminal Law, author Jennifer Rosenberg reviews a growing body of research showing that counting the costs and benefits of our nation’s justice system can highlight areas of improvement that can save billions of taxpayer dollars without compromising public safety.
Instead of incarceration, behavioral therapy for young offenders is saving Washington State money and keeping citizens safer. In Hawaii, intensive supervision is keeping parolees out of expensive penitentiaries and keeping cash in state coffers. And all over the country, drug courts have proven cost-effective alternatives to standard prison sentences, lowering recidivism rates and earning taxpayers sizeable returns on investment.
These results show how powerful the use of economic analysis can be when applied to criminal justice policy. Many of these initiatives cost less than incarceration and future benefits can dwarf the administrative costs of implementing new criminal justice programs.
Over at The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen has this effective follow-up commentary on this new report, which concludes with these insightful points:
It's been 23 years now since George H.W. Bush used the infamous "Willie Horton" campaign advertisement to portray Michael Dukakis as "soft on crime." It's been nearly twice that long since the so-called "silent majority" took back the streets. Violent crime is down. But generations of Americans have come and gone accepting the shibboleth that the easiest answer about criminal justice -- lock 'em up and throw away the key -- is the best answer about criminal justice.
The price we have paid for this lazy calculus is dear: our prisons now are teeming with inmates, the highest population in the world, and many of our states can no longer afford to adequately house them. Of course, many criminals deserve to be there. But many do not. For years there has been a strong economic case for legalizing (and taxing) marijuana. And now, more broadly, there is a stronger economic case for keeping more criminals out of prison.
The NYU study represents a smart new way of looking at an old problem; an economic evaluation that strips away some of the emotion (and demagogeury) that surrounds any discussion of crime and justice. It's easier to be "tough on crime" when you can pay the price, right? But now we can't. And the collective poverty within our criminal justice systems isn't going to ease on its own. So bring in the economists! And let the stale, old law-and-order crowd step aside.
Monday, October 17, 2011
A comical complaint about laws and harsh guidelines
I am not a daily reader of the funny pages, and I am not sure I have ever before even seen the daily comic "Get Fuzzy." But I may need to start following this comic for professional reasons, because a kind reader alerted me to a sentencing-related punchline from today's Get Fuzzy strip.
The punchline from today's strip, which can be read in full at this link, is as follows: "I'm fine with the laws. It's the harsh minimum sentencing guidelines I'm having an issue with." I cannot help but wonder if the creator of Get Fuzzy has spent some time in federal courthouses; this line sound like it came straight from a federal sentencing transcript.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Vera Institute produces special Federal Sentencing Reporter issue: “Sentencing Within Sentencing”
I am so very pleased and proud to announce that the October 2011 issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter is now complete and available on line. This is a special issues that was put together by the amazing folks at the Vera Institute of Justice, and here is how Vera describes the contents:
The October issue of the journal Federal Sentencing Reporter (FSR) examines the theme of “Sentencing Within Sentencing” — punishments defendants face in addition to those meted out by judges upon conviction. As Alison Shames, associate director of Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections, writes in the “Editor’s Observations” column, “People involved in the criminal justice system are, in fact, punished at multiple points.”
The special Vera-edited issue presents new articles and reprints by staff, alumni, and associates that address a broad range of collateral penalties, including pretrial detention due to inability to afford bail, solitary confinement, and court fees and fines. The articles reflect Vera’s work since its founding 50 years ago, with a focus on the U.S. criminal justice, juvenile justice, and immigration systems.
You can read Alison Shames’s column and an article by Vera cofounder Herbert Sturz free of charge online. Vera will publish related guest blog posts and additional articles from the new issue of FSR on the website in the coming weeks.
Read a blog post about this issue of FSR by Vera’s director, Michael Jacobson.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Great new Rutgers resource reviewing crim books
Via Professor Stuart Green, I am please to be able to relay this notice concerning what looks like a great new criminal justice researcher and reader resource:
Rutgers Law School-Newark and the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice are pleased to announce the launch of a new website called Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books. We aim to publish high-quality, timely, and concise on-line reviews of important and interesting new books in criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminal justice.
Among the great looking new books subject to great looking reviews are:
- Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutors Go Wrong
- The Boundaries of the Criminal Law
- Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy
Thursday, September 08, 2011
"Ex Ante Fairness in Criminal Law and Procedure"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper from Professor Vincent Chiao available via SSRN. The piece discusses in interesting ways both death penalty and federal sentencing outcomes. Here is the abstract:
In Furman v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would not tolerate a capital sentencing regime that imposed death sentences in a seriously arbitrary fashion. The question I ask in this paper is whether we should in fact object to arbitrariness in punishment. The answer I propose is that under plausibly adverse conditions, we might not object to arbitrary penal outcomes, because under those conditions a fair distribution of punishment would be one equalizes chances across a class of similarly situated criminals. In particular, fairness may require no more than a rough equalization of ex ante chances under conditions of resource scarcity, an inability to reliably rank claims by comparative desert, and a pressing need for punishment to be imposed. I call this an ex ante theory of fairness.
The central virtue of ex ante fairness is that it is capable of reconciling parsimony in punishment with equity in its distribution, even when claims about who deserves what are deeply contested. Adopting an ex ante standard of fairness means that a concern for fair treatment of the guilty need not blind us to the realities of the severe resource constraints faced by American criminal justice, and vice versa.
After laying out the argument for ex ante fairness in general terms, I proceed to show how several prominent features of American criminal law and procedure -- the Supreme Court’s capital jurisprudence, prosecutorial discretion, non-capital sentencing post-Booker, and “strict” criminal liability -- all exhibit an implicit commitment to an equalization of chances rather than of outcomes.
Monday, August 29, 2011
New US Sentencing Commission reviews of sentencing jurisprudence
Undaunted by earthquakes or hurricanes or the unnatural disasters that are even more common inside the Beltway these days, the US Sentencing Commission this summer has completed and now posted new documents that "present specific decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. circuit courts of appeals regarding the federal sentencing guidelines and related sentencing issues."
Specifically, at this link everyone can find a lengthy document with brief summaries of nearly every major Supreme Court ruling on federal sentencing issues over the last 25 years. And, on this page, everyone can find links to circuit-by-circuit reports on guideline interpretation and post-Booker jurisprudence.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
2011-2012 supplement for Sentencing Law and Policy casebook now available
As a new school year approaches, I am happy to be able to share an updated electronic supplement providing additional materials to accompany the second edition of the Sentencing Law and Policy casebook. Anyone can download this 2011-2012 supplement below.
This updated supplement includes edited versions and notes on the 2011 SCOTUS cases of Pepper and Plata (while also retaining versions of the big prior recent SCOTUS cases of Graham, Padilla, Kennedy, Kimbrough and Gall). There are also a bunch of additional notes covering various major sentencing developments from the past few years, including the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and the litigation surrounding the capital punishment administration in North Carolina in the wake of the state's adoption of its racial Justice Act.
As always, my co-authors and I hope that adopters of our text (and others) find this new, updated supplement useful, and we welcome comments and suggestions.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Lots of diverse crime and punishment news at The Crime Report
I have often mentioned that one of my daily web-stops for criminal justice news and commentary is The Crime Report, and this fascinating and diverse set of recent entries under its Crime and Justice News banner helps highlight why:
- Second-Strike Penalties Account for 32,000 California Prison Inmates
- Utah Sees Gains in Stubborn Problem of Prisoner Recidivism
- Next Legal Gun Fight May Be the Right to Bear Arms in Public
- 'Social Impact Bonds' Touted for Criminal Justice Investments
- HuffPost: More College Students Paying Bills Through Prostitution
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Crackerjack coverage of new crack guidelines and retroactivity decision on USSC website
I am very pleased to see and to report that the US Sentencing Commission's ever-improving website now has this special webpage titled "Materials on Federal Cocaine Offenses." This new special page provides especially effective and comprehensive coverage of the USSC's decision last week to make its new crack sentencing guideline retroactive. This new webpage also brings together in one space via links all the most important USSC materials concerning federal crack sentencing law and policy, including a helpful "Reader-Friendly" Version of Amendment on Retroactivity, which becomes effective November 1, 2011.
I sincerely hope that the US Sentencing Commission will continue to build these sorts of specialized pages with collected materials on all hot federal sentencing topics. I believe additional special pages on the immigration guidelines, the child porn guidelines, the fraud guidelines and others could and would be very helpful to both practitioners and researchers.
July 5, 2011 in Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, New crack statute and the FSA's impact, New USSC crack guidelines and report, Recommended reading | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Saturday, July 02, 2011
"Cruel and Unusual Federal Punishments"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting and important new article by Professor Michael Mannheimer. Here is the abstract:
In recent years, federal prison sentences have often far outstripped state sentences for the same criminal conduct. This is the result of the confluence of two trends. First, crime has become increasingly federalized, so that the very same criminal conduct typically punished by state law, such as drug trafficking, gun possession, and child pornography offenses, is increasingly being punished in federal court. Second, the federal sentencing guidelines and statutory mandatory minimum sentences for many of these offenses have grown so as to far exceed the sentences available in state court.
Virtually all federal defendants who have challenged their sentences as, “cruel and unusual punishment,” in violation of the Eighth Amendment have failed. This is not surprising. The Supreme Court jurisprudence on cruel and unusual carceral punishments is extraordinarily deferential to legislative judgments about how harsh prison sentences ought to be for particular crimes. This deferential approach stems largely from concerns of federalism, for all of the Court’s modern cases on the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause have addressed state, not federal, sentencing practices. Thus, they have addressed the Eighth Amendment only as incorporated by the Fourteenth. Indeed, one must go back a century to find a Supreme Court case addressing proportionality in the context of federal sentencing, and that case was highly atypical. Thus, federal courts find themselves applying a deferential standard designed in large part to safeguard the values of federalism in cases where those values do not call for deference.
The task of this article is to re-discover the meaning of the, “pure” Eighth Amendment, unmediated by the Fourteenth. Recent academic commentary about the original understanding of the Eighth Amendment correctly focuses our attention on the Clause’s main purpose of comparing a given punishment to those generally meted out at common law for the same conduct. Yet these commentators fail to adequately appreciate the extent to which the Eighth Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was an attempt by the Anti-Federalists to secure individual rights through the preservation of a robust form of state sovereignty. Moreover, the Anti-Federalists, and their political heirs, the Republicans, rejected a, “pre-realist,” vision of common law in favor of an approach that recognized the common law as varying State to State. Thus, the Anti-Federalists took a decidedly State-centered and State-specific approach to the common-law rights that the Eighth Amendment was designed to encapsulate. And the views and general outlook of the Anti-Federalists are critical to a complete understanding of the Bill of Rights, for it was they who won the concession of the adoption of the Bill as the price of union.
This contextualized account of the ratification of the Eighth Amendment evidences a design to limit the power of the federal government to inflict punishment for crimes to the same extent that the States limited their own power to punish. That is to say, whether a federal punishment for a crime is, “cruel and unusual,” can be answered only in reference to the punishment for the same conduct meted out by the States. Moreover, the Anti-Federalists’ views on the nature of the common law indicate that the appropriate comparator is the State where the criminal conduct occurred, not the States generally. But, in either event, the standard for determining whether a federal sentence is “cruel and unusual” ought to be far more stringent than that used in reviewing Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment challenges to State sentences.
July 2, 2011 in Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Recommended reading, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Monday, June 20, 2011
Lots of notable new items via The Crime Report
The Crime Report website is a daily stop for me because it always has original pieces and links to other reporting about a rnage of important criminal justice issues with sentencing law and policy dimensions. For example, newly up on the site are these three notable items:
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Latest OSJCL issue with lots of deep punishment and sentencing thoughts
I am very pleased to report that the Spring 2011 issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law is now fully available on-line. There are an especially large number of terrific pieces in this issue, which includes not only a thoughtful article symposium on "Political Theory and Criminal Punishment" but also an awesome commentary symposium on "The HBO Series The Wire." I am eager to praise and promote every piece in this new OSJCL issue, though here I will spotlight just a few of the pieces that ought to be of special interest to sentencing fans:
Zachary Hoskins, Deterrent Punishment and Respect for Persons, 8 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 369 (2011).
Mary Sigler, The Political Morality of the Eighth Amendment, 8 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 403 (2011).
Roger Lane, Taking the Mystery Out of Murder Rates: Can It Be Done?, 8 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 553 (2011).
William H. Pryor, Federalism and Sentencing Reform in the Post-Blakely/Booker Era, 8 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 515 (2011).
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
"Padilla and The Delivery of Integrated Criminal Defense"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Professor Ron Wright. Here is the abstract:
The traditional starting point for the Sixth Amendment jurisprudence is the individual defense attorney, acting alone. Padilla v. Kentucky, however, replaced the image of the lawyer as a heroic and individualistic figure with a focus on the lawyer’s responsibility to consult others and to create an effective defense team. This evolving conception of the lawyer as a team manager is a long-term trend that applies throughout the legal profession.
Public defender organizations already experiment with various methods for delivering the best service to clients with potential immigration issues mixed in with their criminal law issues. Some of those methods contracted out the immigration work to specialists outside the organization; others brought the immigration expertise inside the organization, either through placing experts in a single state-level position, or by disseminating immigration experts in local offices.
The Padilla holding gives some impetus to the insider strategy. It increases the costs to a defender organization if one of its lawyers fails to recognize a straightforward immigration issue. As a result, Padilla tilts the field towards larger defender organizations with greater specialization of function and more coordination of effort among attorneys -- in short, toward a more bureaucratic criminal defense.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Effective review of recent past, notable present and potential future of sentencing reform
The latest issue of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice magazine (for which I serve on the editorial board) includes a new piece by The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer titled "Sentencing Reform: Amid Mass Incarcerations, Guarded Optimism." The piece, which available at this link, reviews recent legal and policy developments at both the state and federal level and also urges assesses and makes recommendation for public policy advocacy in this arena. Here is one of many notable paragraphs from the piece:
Perhaps nowhere in the realm of social policy is there such a broad consensus among scholars and practitioners than in the area of public safety as to what should be done to promote better outcomes yet where there has been less implementation. Despite a widespread critique of mass incarceration and virtually no credible defense of its policies, reforms have been exceedingly modest and slow in coming, given the scale of the problem. Thus, while we still have much to learn about prevention, treatment, and reentry, the key dilemma we face is not so much one of figuring out “what works,” but rather how to transform the political environment to one that is more receptive to reform.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Some deep thoughts on punishment theory and criminal procedure
Classes have wrapped up for the school year (though I still have grading to finish), and it will probably be a few days before I start feeling really guilty about returning to all the writing projects that stalled during a busy semester. This window presents a perfect time to do some deep professional reading, and these two interesting looking pieces on SSRN are going to the topic of my to-read pile:
The Ideological Basis of Punitive Sentiment: Beyond Instrumental and Relational Perspectives by Monica Gerber & Jonathan Jackson
Abstract: Why do people call for the tougher sentencing of criminal offenders? According to an instrumental perspective, punitiveness is driven by the experience of victimisation and fear of crime. People are motivated to feel safe and secure, and they look to criminal sentencing to reduce the likelihood of future harm. According to a relational perspective, punitiveness is driven by concerns about social decline and community breakdown. People are motivated to feel part of cohesive social groups, and retributive punishment symbolically restores moral boundaries and values. Building on the work of Tyler and Boeckmann (1997) and King and Maruna (2009), we present evidence that instrumental and relational predictors each explain some variation in punitive sentiment. But we also show that instrumental and relational concerns lose much of their explanatory power once we control for an authoritarian ideology. We conclude with the argument that instrumental and relational concerns are bound up with punitive sentiment and right-wing authoritarianism in complex but as yet rather under-theorised ways in criminology. Central to neo-Durkheimian attitudes towards punishment may be an authoritarian preference for tight, hierarchical social structures and related beliefs about a dangerous world that lacks cohesion.
Abstract: This paper diagnoses several of the liabilities of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, including its subjectivity, its ambiguity, and its presumed universal applicability across all crimes and all defendants. It argues further that the Supreme Court's repeated claims that this standard follows logically from an acknowledgement that false convictions are worse than false acquittals is an unsound inference. Finally, it proposes that future discussions of the standard of proof should take place in an environment in which detailed empirical information about the error rates at trial should be the engine driving the re-formulation of the standard of proof.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In memoriam: Professor Bill Stuntz
I am saddened to learn from this post by Orin Kerr that Harvard Law Professor Bill Stuntz, whom Orin describes as "the leading criminal procedure scholar of his generation," passed away earlier this week after a long battle with cancer. I always learned a lot and re-thought a lot whenever reading Bill's extraordinary scholarship, and both the legal academy and those interested in criminal justice reform have lost a distinctive and important voice.
Here are just a few of the many important pieces by Bill that I consider must-reads for sentencing law and policy fans (and should remain so for quite some time):
- Unequal Justice, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 1969 (2008)
- Plea Bargaining and Criminal Law’s Disappearing Shadow, 117 Harv. L. Rev. 2548 (2004)
- The Pathological Politics of Criminal Law, 100 Mich. L. Rev. 505 (2001)
- The Uneasy Relationship Between Criminal Procedure and Criminal Justice, 107 Yale L.J. 1 (1997)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Two notable case notes in latest Harvard Law Review
The February 2011 issue of the Harvard Law Review includes brief notes on two significant federal circuit court rulings that have both gotten considerable attention on this blog:
Monday, February 21, 2011
Special issue of Criminology & Public Policy examines mass incarceration and targeted policing
I was pleased this weekend to discover that the February 2011 issue of Criminology & Public Policy is devoted to the idea that society would be well served to reallocate resources from mass incarceration to targeted policing. Here is the start from the editor's introduction to the issue authored by Richard Rosenfeld:
Mass incarceration is the criminological issue of our time. A close contender is so-called hot-spots policing. The former invites condemnation from most criminologists. The latter inspires confidence that smart policing can reduce crime. In their provocative and important paper that is the focus of this special issue of Criminology & Public Policy, Steven Durlauf and Daniel Nagin (2011) bring the two issues together and propose that we might be able to achieve crime reductions by shortening prison sentences and using the cost savings to support more and better policing. They rest their case squarely in a deterrence framework. They argue that increasing the severity of punishment through marginal increases in the length of prison sentences has weak deterrent effects, at best; by the same logic, shortening prison sentences should not produce appreciable crime increases. In contrast, increasing the perceived certainty of punishment can reduce crime without increasing imprisonment levels through targeted policing strategies that reduce criminal opportunities. If the authors are right, this is a win-win strategy for crime control and criminal justice policy.Durlauf and Nagin (2011) are careful to delimit scope of their analysis. They do not examine the incapacitation effects of imprisonment or retribution as a goal of punishment. They do not consider in any detail crime-reduction approaches that extend beyond the criminal justice system. They acknowledge but do not thrash out the daunting political obstacles to shifting resources from state corrections budgets to local police departments. They also acknowledge the limited, albeit promising, research base for the effectiveness of targeted enforcement and call for more and better research. Nor do they claim originality for their assessment of the deterrent effects of imprisonment and policing. The deterrence framework they invoke dates to Beccaria and Bentham. Others have advocated smarter policing as a substitute for more incarceration (e.g., Weisburd, 2008). Durlauf and Nagin’s (2011) contribution is to ground deterrence in the logic and methods of modern economics and draw out the research and policy implications of increasing the certainty and reducing the severity of punishment. I believe they have succeeded admirably in achieving their objectives, especially if it is assumed that their overriding objective was to provoke thoughtful and informed discussion of their proposals by academic experts and policy professionals alike. As former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh (2011) puts it in his reaction essay, Durlauf and Nagin’s analysis provides an ideal “jumping off point” for serious debate.
The 16 reaction essays in this issue are uniformly sympathetic to Durlauf and Nagin’s (2011) basic argument, even while many are critical of specific aspects of their evaluation of the deterrence literature and diagnosis of the trade-offs between reductions in imprisonment and enhancements in policing. None proposes increasing incarceration or returning to policing as usual to promote public safety. Yet most of the discussants would have liked the authors to deepen their analysis of the criminal justice system and extend their arguments beyond the stated objectives.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
"The People’s Right: Reimagining the Right to Counsel"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting looking new article by Martin Guggenheim and now available via SSRN. Here is part of the abstract:
This Article re-imagines the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, which has been treated exclusively as an individual right enforceable through the Due Process Clause, as a collective right of the People. Building on the writings of Anthony Amsterdam and Akhil Amar, this Article argues that there are vital structural protections inherent in the right to counsel that go well beyond an individual’s due process rights. In particular, the Founders of the Constitution, above all else, contemplated a robust system of checks and balances when executive power was exercised. Perhaps the paradigmatic example of the exercise of such power is the arrest and prosecution of an individual. In the world inhabited by the Founders, the primary means by which executive power was to be checked was through the jury system.
In the modern crush of criminal justice, however, juries play a statistically insignificant checking power function. In the overwhelming majority of cases prosecuted in state court, defendants are not provided with an attorney who has the capacity to undertake any kind of meaningful investigation into the facts and circumstances of their cases.
Courts need to rely on a vital ally when performing their oversight responsibilities. They depend (we depend) on a robust indigent defense system which routinely investigates the underlying facts and circumstances of individual cases as the only truly meaningful check on executive power....
Separation of powers, which has long been a shield preventing courts from overseeing indigent defense systems, is now a sword by which courts are authorized to decide for themselves whether indigent defense systems are adequate to allow courts to do their duty. If courts find they are not, they would be constitutionally empowered to fix the problem by insisting that more money is made available for indigent defense.
An indigent defender system is widely understood as necessary to protect and enforce the rights of its clients. But taken as a whole, the indigent system becomes something much bigger. If the individual defense attorney may be seen as a private attorney general enforcing the rights of his or her client, the collective defense system should be seen as the investigative arm of the judiciary providing meaningful oversight on executive power. Without a robust indigent defense system, one with the capacity to investigate cases on a regular basis, the executive branch ends up with a license to act which would have been unthinkable to the Framers of the Constitution who worked so carefully to ensure that executive power would be checked on a regular basis
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Two 2011 must-reads for sentencing fans from the Duke Law Journal
A little law review surfing proved fruitful this afternoon when I discovered that the January 2011 issue of the Duke Law Review is already available on-line and it includes these two must-reads for sentencing fans:
- this article by Ty Alper on lethal injection litigation titled "Blind Dates: When Should the Statute of Limitations Begin to Run on a Method-of-Execution Challenge?"
- this note by John Gabriel Woodlee titled "Congressional Manipulation of the Sentencing Guideline for Child Pornography Possession: An Argument For or Against Deference?"
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
SCOTUS reflections in Harvard Law Review covers Graham and Padilla effectively
I just got around to noticing that the traditional November Harvard Law Review issue reviewing the work of the prior Term of the Supreme Court is now fully available on-line here. Not surprisingly, this issue gives its greatest attention to the Citizens United ruling. But the big cases from last Term that criminal justice fans now know by first names — e.g., Skilling and McDonald — also seem to get effective case-note treatment. And, based on a quick skim, it seems that the two most significant rulings from last SCOTUS Term for sentencing law and policy are especially well examined in these short pieces:
- HLR assessment of Graham v. Floridaon the Eighth Amendment and LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders
- HLR assessment of Padilla v. Kentucky on the Sixth Amendment and advising defendants about collateral consequences of a conviction