Wednesday, May 01, 2013
DOJ review confirms government waste and mismanagement of BOP's handling of compassionate releasePublic policy groups have long criticized the many terrible ways in with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) administered the authority Congress provided it for the early release of prisoners in dire condition. Most notably, late last year, as discussed here, Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums today released a major report criticizing the poor administration of the federal compassionate release program. Today, this big new report from the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General confirmed what critics have long said. Here are key excerpts from the final portion of the report:
We concluded that an effectively managed compassionate release program would result in cost savings for the BOP, as well as assist the BOP in managing its continually growing inmate population and the resulting capacity challenges it is facing. We further found that such a program would likely have a relatively low rate of recidivism. However, we found that the existing BOP compassionate release program is poorly managed and that its inconsistent and ad hoc implementation has likely resulted in potentially eligible inmates not being considered for release. It has also likely resulted in terminally ill inmates dying before their requests for compassionate release were decided. Problems with the program’s management are concentrated in four areas.
First, the BOP’s regulations and Program Statement do not establish appropriate medical and non-medical criteria for compassionate release consideration and do not adequately define “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances that might warrant release....
Second, the BOP has failed to put in place timeliness standards at each step of the review process....
Third, the BOP does not have procedures to inform inmates about the compassionate release program....
Fourth, the BOP does not have a system to track all compassionate release requests, the timeliness of the review process, or whether decisions made by institution and regional office staff are consistent with each other or with BOP policy....
The BOP also does not track the time it takes to process requests and has no formal or standard means of determining the date the review process begins. Consequently, the BOP cannot monitor its process effectively. This is especially problematic for inmates with terminal medical conditions, and we found that 13 percent of inmates whose requests had been approved for compassionate release by a Warden and Regional Director died before a decision was made by the BOP Director....
Further, the BOP does not maintain cost data associated with the custody and treatment of inmates who may be eligible for compassionate release. Despite this lack of data, the BOP reported to Congress that it could save $3.2 million by expanding the compassionate release program....
Finally, we found the rate of recidivism for inmates approved and released through the existing compassionate release program to be low compared with the overall rate for federal inmates released into the community.
Some recent related posts:
- New report assails (lack of) compassionate release in federal system
- NY Times editorial laments lack of compassionate release
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Mizzou Supreme Court hears arguments concerning Miller's impactAs reported in this local article, headlined "MO Sup Court hears cases of two St. Louis juveniles sentenced to life without parole," the top court in the Show Me State is trying to figure out how it must adjust its sentencing system in the wake of last year's Miller ruling by the US Supreme Court. Here are the basics of what is now before the Supreme Court of Missouri:
Two St. Louis cases were among the first to go before the state's high court Tuesday as it tries to decide what should be done with dozens of juvenile murder convicts who were sentenced to mandatory terms of life without parole before the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional....
One of those is the high-profile case of Ledale Nathan Jr., who was 16 when he and an accomplice stormed into a home in the LaSalle Park neighborhood of St. Louis, burglarized it and shot the family members inside. One woman was killed and two others, a city firefighter and police officer, were wounded.
In Missouri, first-degree murder carries only two sentencing options: life without parole, or death (which the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled could not apply to juveniles). But in the June 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that while juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole, it cannot be automatic and must only be done after the judge or jury has the opportunity to hear mitigating circumstances that include the defendant's age and a range of other factors.
The state legislature is expected to ultimately decide how to change the statutory range of punishment to comport with the court ruling, clearing things up for cases going forward. But in the meantime, the state supreme court is being asked to consider what the Miller decision means for the older cases — both those on direct appeal, and those that have exhausted their state court remedies.
There are 84 cases in Missouri in which a person is currently serving life without parole for an offense committed as a juvenile, according to the last count by the Missouri Department of Corrections. Of those cases, 46 of the offenders were age 17 at the time of the crime, 25 were age 16, 11 were age 15, and two were age 14.
Of the three cases argued on Tuesday, two were being heard on direct appeal, one being the Nathan case. The state, represented by Attorney General Kris Koster's office, conceded that the two cases should get a new sentencing hearing, but argued the only options should be life — which amounts to 30 years in Missouri — or life without parole.
"Allowing life and life without parole achieves as close as the court can get without adding words or redrafting the statute," argued Assistant Attorney General Evan Buchheim, in the Nathan case. Buchheim said until the legislature decide on anything different, "we've got to work with what we've got."
But Nathan's attorney, Jessica Hathaway, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued as a friend of the court, contended that route would go beyond the court's authority by rewriting the statute. They argued instead for a sentencing range that applies for second degree murder, or a Class A felony, which is ten to 30 years (life)....
Similar arguments were made in the other case being heard on direct appeal, the St. Louis case of Laron Hart, convicted of the fatally shooting of a man and robbery of a woman at gunpoint in January 2010, when he was 17. In the third case involves the 1995 conviction of a McDonald County woman, Sheena Eastburn, as an accomplice in the shooting death of her husband. The state has argued Miller does not apply to her case because she has exhausted her appeals, among other procedural issues.
Monday, April 29, 2013
"Is 100 Years a Life Sentence? Opinions Are Divided"The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Sidebar column in the New York Times by Adam Liptak. Hard-core sentencing fans should realize from the title that this is a story about one of the many doctrinal questions gurgling in lower courts three years after a landmark Eighth Amendment SCOTUS ruling. Here are excerpts from the column:
If people who are too young to vote commit crimes short of murder, the Supreme Court said in 2010, they should not be sentenced to die in prison. That sounds straightforward enough. But there are two ways to understand the decision, Graham v. Florida.
One is formal. The court may have meant only to bar sentences labeled “life without parole.” On that understanding, judges remained free to impose very long sentences — 100 years, say — as long as they were for a fixed term rather than for life....
The other way to understand the decision is practical. If the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment requires that young offenders be left with a glimmer of hope that they may someday be released, it should not matter whether they were sentenced to life in so many words or as a matter of rudimentary actuarial math.
The lower courts are split on how to interpret the Graham decision, and the Supreme Court seems to be in no hurry to answer the question. Last week, the justices turned away an appeal from Chaz Bunch of Ohio, who was convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman in a carjacking when he was 16. He was sentenced to 89 years. Even assuming he becomes eligible for early release, he will be 95 years old before he can leave prison.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, upheld the sentence, even as it acknowledged that there were two ways to approach the matter.... Until the Supreme Court speaks, Judge Rogers wrote, there is no “clearly established federal law” to assist Mr. Bunch, who was challenging his state conviction in federal court.
Applying the reasoning of the Graham decision to long fixed sentences, Judge Rogers added, “would lead to a lot of questions.” An appeals court in Florida last year listed some of them in upholding a 76-year sentence meted out to Leighdon Henry, who was 16 when he committed rape.
“At what number of years would the Eighth Amendment become implicated in the sentencing of a juvenile: 20, 30, 40, 50, some lesser or greater number?” Judge Jacqueline R. Griffin wrote for the court.
Mr. Henry is black and was born in 1989. The life expectancy of black males born that year was 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Life expectancy in prison is shorter than it is outside. Wherever the line is, then, a 76-year sentence would seem to be past it. “Could the number vary from offender to offender based on race, gender, socioeconomic class or other criteria?” Judge Griffin asked.
That is a reasonable question. But Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., said it was the wrong one. “The idea isn’t to get the person as close to death as possible before you deal with the possibility of their release,” he said. It is, rather, to give juvenile offenders a sporting chance, perhaps after decades in prison, to make the case that they deserve to get out, he said....
The number of juvenile offenders serving de facto life terms because of very long sentences is probably in the hundreds. Some of the appeals court judges who have upheld such sentences did not sound enthusiastic about the task. “Without any tools to work with, however, we can only apply Graham as it is written,” Judge Griffin wrote. “If the Supreme Court has more in mind, it will have to say what that is.”
April 29, 2013 in Assessing Graham and its aftermath, Graham and Sullivan Eighth Amendment cases, Offender Characteristics, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack
SCOTUS grants cert on federal criminal law causation issuesThe Supreme Court, despite having one of it members on the DL, gets a new week started with some notable criminal justice action. First and foremost, it has granted review, via this order list, in Burrage v. United States (12-7515). Here is how the SCOTUSblog folks describes the questions on which cert was granted in Burrage:
The way these issues matter in Burrage can be figured out from the Eighth Circuit decision from last year, which can be accessed at this link. And, thanks to the SCOTUSblog folks, now the cert petition can be accessed at this link.
First, whether the crime of distributing drugs causing death is a strict liability crime without a cause requirement.
Second, whether a person can be convicted of that crime under jury instructions which allow a conviction when the heroin contributed to death but was not the sole cause of the death.
Friday, April 26, 2013
"Sometimes a number is just a number, but when the number at issue triggers an enhancement under the Sentencing Guidelines, that number matters."The title of this post is the first sentence of this notable Eleventh Circuit panel decision today in US v. Washington, No. 11-14177 (11th Cir. April 26, 2013) (available here). Here is the rest of the first paragraph, as well as an interesting extra little part of the story from the final section of the Washington opinion (cites omitted):
In this appeal we decide whether the government presented sufficient evidence that 250 or more persons or entities were victimized by the fraud scheme in which Gary Washington participated. Because the government failed to put on any evidence that there were 250 or more victims, we vacate Mr. Washington’s sentence and remand for the district court to resentence Mr. Washington with a 2-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(2)(A) rather than a 6-level enhancement under § 2B1.1(b)(2)(C)....
The government asks that it be allowed to prove on remand that there were 250 or more victims for whom Mr. Washington was responsible. We decline the government’s request. Nothing prevented the government -- which was aware of Mr. Washington’s objection -- from putting on evidence concerning the number of victims at the sentencing hearing, and a party who bears the burden on a contested sentencing issue will generally not get to try again on remand if its evidence is found to be insufficient on appeal. We have discretion to permit the government to present evidence at resentencing even though it amounts to giving the party a second bite at the apple. But often a remand for further findings is inappropriate when the issue was before the district court and the parties had an opportunity to introduce relevant evidence, and here the government failed to present any evidence concerning the number of victims.
Current NRA president vocally supporting (liberal? conservative?) mandatory minimum sentencing reform in OregonDavid Keene, a former chairman of the American Conservative Union who is now serving as president of the National Rifle Association, has this notable new commentary piece in the Salem Statesman Journal promoting sentencing reform in the Beaver State. Here are excerpts:
If you are an Oregon conservative, I hope you’re asking the same question the state’s bipartisan Commission on Public Safety asked: “Are taxpayers getting the most from the money we spend on public safety?” Oregon has been a leader in effective corrections policy and boasts one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation.
But the state is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to corrections spending, and much of the growth is due to mandatory minimum sentences that violate conservative principles.
Oregon criminal justice agencies predict that the state’s prison population will grow significantly over the next 10 years, and that the growth will be composed mostly of nonviolent offenders. The expected inmate surge is projected to cost Oregon taxpayers $600 million, on top of the biennial corrections budget of $1.3 billion.
The time is ripe for comprehensive criminal justice reform — not only supported by Oregon conservatives, but led by Oregon conservatives.
We believe all government spending programs need to be put to the cost-benefit test, and criminal justice is no exception. Oregon has done a good job with this in the past but is slipping, by locking up more offenders who could be held accountable with shorter sentences followed by more effective, less expensive local supervision programs....
As conservatives, we also believe that a key to protecting our freedom is maintaining the separation of powers between the branches of government. Such protection is lost when so-called “mandatory minimum” sentences force the judicial branch to impose broad-brush responses to nuanced problems. Mandatory minimums were adopted in response to the abuses of a few judges decades ago, but have proven a blunt, costly and constitutionally problematic one-size-fits-all solution begging for reform.
The commission’s recommendations make modest prospective changes to mandatory minimums under Measures 11 and 57. These measures have given prosecutors unchecked power to determine sentences by way of charging decisions, regardless of the facts of the case, or the individual’s history and likelihood of re-offending.
The reform package now before the Legislature would restore the constitutional role of the courts for three of the 22 offenses covered by Measure 11. Judges could still impose the stiffest penalties where necessary, but would regain discretion in sentencing appropriate offenders to shorter prison terms or less expensive, more intensive community supervision.
These sensible reforms will restore some checks and balances between prosecutors and the courts, allow prison resources to be focused on serious violent offenders and let taxpayers know that their public safety dollars are being spent more wisely.
April 26, 2013 in Mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, State Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Colorado report documents significant costs of poor planning for sex offender sanctionsA helpful reader alerted me to this interesting new Denver Post piece headlined "Audit rips Colorado's lifetime-supervision sentence for sex offenders." Here are excerpts:
A 15-year-old state law that created a lifetime-supervision sentence for Colorado sex offenders provides insufficient treatment for many of the highest-risk inmates and has left thousands of others waiting for therapy in prison, according to a recent audit.
Demand for treatment in the Department of Corrections' Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program greatly exceeds supply, the audit found. Just one-sixth of inmates eligible to begin treatment are able to start the program each year — effectively keeping many sex offenders in prison indefinitely.
More than 1,000 inmates who are ready and waiting for treatment have passed their parole-eligibility dates, the auditors found. Their prolonged incarceration may be costing Colorado taxpayers as much as $30 million a year.
In a scathing audit given to corrections officials in February, Central Coast Clinical and Forensic Psychology Services Inc. also found the sex-offender program suffers from poorly qualified therapists and inappropriate levels of treatment given offenders.
"It's a disaster," said Laurie Kepros, who directs sexual-litigation cases for the Colorado public defender's office. "Thousands of people are being told you have to have treatment to get out of prison" by a system failing to provide that treatment, she said. "We're paying for this every day."
Former Republican state Rep. Norma Anderson, who sponsored the 1998 law, said she recognizes the high cost of keeping many violent sex offenders in prison indefinitely and would like to see funding for treatment increased. Still, "I'd rather have them there than out committing another sex crime," she said. "I'm on the side of the victim and always will be."
Tom Clements, the state corrections chief who was killed March 19, had promised a swift response to the issues raised by the audit and fundamental changes to the sex-offender program in a March 8 letter to the legislative Joint Budget Committee. Clements was shot to death at the door of his Monument home. The suspected killer, Evan Ebel, was an inmate who had been released directly from solitary confinement to "intensive supervision" parole.
Clements' murder brought intense scrutiny to the state parole system because Ebel, paroled on robbery and related charges, had slipped off his ankle bracelet five days earlier. Now, legislators say they also plan to scrutinize the sex-offender treatment program within the prisons — and the law that created potential lifetime sentences for sex offenses.
The law established indeterminate sentences — five years to life, for example — for many sex-offense crimes in Colorado. Sex offenders who successfully complete a prison-treatment program and get paroled then enter a community-based lifetime-supervision program....
The number of Colorado inmates classified as sex offenders has grown from 21 percent to 26 percent of the total prison population in five years. Much of the growth can be traced to the 1998 law. By 2012, more than 1,600 of the nearly 4,000 men classified as sex offenders in Colorado prisons were sentenced under the law.
The audit of the program was undertaken at the behest of state Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat who serves on the Joint Budget Committee. She said it confirmed her longstanding concerns about the program's fairness and effectiveness. It affirmed that "low-risk sex offenders can be treated as effectively in the community," Levy said. "The lifetime-supervision law does not allow that."
The report described the state's sex-offender treatment program as "largely a one-size-fits-all program in which all treatment participants are generally expected to complete the same treatment exercises." This treatment occurs in groups that "are very large, often with 14 per group," the experts wrote.
The auditors reported that low-risk sex offenders in Colorado remain imprisoned at great cost, that the most dangerous offenders get too little attention and that nearly half the therapists they observed were "poor" — conducting group therapy sessions with behaviors "outside the range of what is acceptable for a therapist." In some cases, those therapists appeared bored and "sometimes expressed hostility," the authors reported. "Therapists sometimes appeared demeaning and condescending, mocking their patients."
The state spends about $31,000 a year to keep a single person in prison. That's $30 million a year the state is spending unnecessarily if the prison system holds a thousand sex offenders who could be treated safely outside, said Kepros of the public defender's office....
The audit found Colorado prisons can yearly accept just 675 of 3,959 sex offenders who are within four years of parole eligibility, leaving 3,284 unable to participate in treatment. As a result, other sex offenders may be unable to get any treatment before their release "even if they present an exceptionally high risk" to the community, the audit said. It noted that therapists and inmates alike described the treatment programs as "under-resourced," with little attention to individual needs and scant opportunity for private, individual therapy.
Arkansas Supreme Court explains what Miller ruling means now for Kuntrell JacksonAs reported in this AP piece, in a ruling today the Arkansas Supreme Court "ordered a new sentencing hearing for Kuntrell Jackson, whose case was one of two that led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year throwing out mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles." The nine-page ruling in Jackson v. Norris, 2013 Ark. 175 (April 25, 2013) (available here), is an interesting read for a number of reasons.
First, this latest round of habeas litigation for Kuntrell Jackson does not deal at all with any possible dispute over whether the Supreme Court's Miller ruling is to be given retroactive effect. This may because it appears the prosecution did not contest Jackson's request to be resentencing in light of Miller, as evidence by this sentence from the opinion: "We agree with the State’s concession that Jackson is entitled to the benefit of the United State’s Supreme Court’s opinion in his own case. See Yates v. Aiken, 484 U.S. 211, 218 (1988)."
Second, after parroting most of the key language from the SCOTUS Miller ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court has an interesting discussion of how to revamp the sentencing provisions applicable to Kuntrell Jackson's conviction in the wake of Miller. Here is how that discussion finishes:
We thus instruct the Mississippi County Circuit Court to hold a sentencing hearing where Jackson may present Miller evidence for consideration. We further instruct that Jackson’s sentence must fall within the statutory discretionary sentencing range for a Class Y felony. For a Class Y felony, the sentence is not a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole, but instead a discretionary sentencing range of not less than ten years and not more than forty years, or life. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-401(a)(1) (Repl. 1997).
Finally, we are mindful that Jackson argues that as a matter of Eighth Amendment law, and because of the unique circumstances of this case, he cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment. However, it is premature to consider whether a life sentence would be permissible given that a life sentence is only one of the options available on resentencing.
Notably, Jackson's crime took place in 1999, and I presume he has been in custody since his arrest. In other words, given that he has already served more than a decade in prison and that the Arkansas Supreme Court has decided he is now eligible for a sentence as low as 10 years, he could possibly upon resentencing get a term of only time served. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what sentence state prosecutors request and what sentence actually gets imposed on Jackson at his future resentencing.
April 25, 2013 in Assessing Graham and its aftermath, Assessing Miller and its aftermath, Jackson and Miller Eighth Amendment cases, Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
"You Can't Get There from Here: Elderly Prisoners, Prison Downsizing, and the Insufficiency of Cost Cutting Advocacy"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new piece by Elizabeth Rapaport now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The prison population in the United States has peaked and begun to recede, reversing more than 30 years of growth. Mass incarceration is yielding to the imperative to reduce state budgets in recessionary times. As states turn away from the extravagant use of prison for nonviolent offenders, the percentage of the prison population serving long and life sentences for violent felonies will increase. By 2009 one in eleven prisoners were lifers. These are the prisoners growing old and dying in prison.
High cost elderly prisoners who have aged out of crime should be good candidates for cost saving measures such as compassionate release, parole, and release through community corrections programs. This impression does not withstand scrutiny. Two thirds of elderly prisoners have been convicted of violent crimes; one quarter has been convicted of sexual offenses. Programs to reduce prison costs have indeed gained ground but they are designed for a very different population. The offender who is well positioned to avoid or leave prison as a result of cost savings policies is a young nonviolent offender; The majority of states have succeeded in reducing prison admissions by diverting nonviolent offenders to drug and other treatment programs and reducing prison terms for low level offenders. A threshold condition for diversion or release is low risk of violent offending. Implicitly these low risk nonviolent offenders are also promoted as criminals who can rehabilitate and reintegrate into the community. The majority of compassionate release programs either exclude prisoners who were convicted of violent crimes or require that the prisoner be incapacitated to the extent that he or she poses no threat to public safety. Yet even prisoners who meet these standards are rarely released.
Arguing for cost cutting release of the fast growing legion of elderly prisoners is much less easily buttressed with soothing claims about the happy coincidence of lower costs and public safety. Even if, and it is big if, exaggerated fear of further predations were successfully addressed, the advocate of cost cutting reform cannot answer demands for retribution without venturing beyond the discourse of the “tough on crime” era. For thirty years the political class has shunned the previously commonly invoked criminal justice values of second chances -- the redemptive values of rehabilitation, reintegration, and mercy. The sickest and oldest prisoners are largely beyond second chances for productive citizenship. Whether released or incarcerated their care will be borne by the public purse. Elder care is not free.
This Article focuses on the subclass of old prisoners who are beyond any prospect for productive citizenship because of age and ill health and are in need of elder care. The argument of this Article is that in order to capture the savings that release (and efficient carceral care) of elderly prisoners would bring, politicians and policy advocates will have to relearn to speak the language of humane criminal justice values, prominently mercy.
April 24, 2013 in Prisons and prisoners, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Georgia now has permission, but not needed pentobarbital, for executing Warren HillThe saga surrounding Georgia's efforts to carry out the punishment of death for a Warren Hill, now more than two decades after his second murder, moved forward yesterday after a big split panel ruling by the Eleventh Circuit. This Atlanta Journal Constitution article, headlined "Court lifts execution stay; state out of lethal-injection drugs," explains the panel ruling, while also highlights why this long-running death penalty drama seems unlikely to end anytime soon:
The federal appeals court in Atlanta has denied Warren Hill’s bid to halt his execution on grounds he is mentally retarded at a time when the state finds itself out of lethal-injection drugs.
By a 2-1 vote, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Hill’s mental retardation claims had already been considered and rejected. The court also said that because Hill only challenged his eligibility for execution, and not his conviction of murder, it could not consider his new claims.
The court lifted its stay of execution, meaning the state can set a new execution date for Hill at anytime. But the Georgia Department of Corrections is currently out of pentobarbital, a barbiturate used as the state’s sole lethal-injection drug. “At this time, we are looking into the procurement of the drug,” agency spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in an email.
Hill’s case attracted international attention this year when three state experts, who previously testified Hill was faking his mental disability, came forward and said they had been mistaken. The doctors — two psychiatrists and a psychologist — described their evaluations of Hill more than a decade ago as rush jobs and said an improved scientific understanding of mental retardation led them to now believe Hill is mildly mentally retarded.
In 1988, Georgia became the first state to ban executions of the mentally retarded; the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional nationwide in 2002.
Judge Rosemary Barkett issued a stinging dissent, saying there is now “no question” that Georgia will be executing a mentally retarded man. She noted that all seven mental health experts — the state’s and Hill’s — who have examined Hill now unanimously agree he is mentally retarded. “The idea that courts are not permitted to acknowledge that a mistake has been made which would bar an execution is quite incredible for a country that not only prides itself on having the quintessential system of justice but attempts to export it to the world as a model of fairness,” she wrote.
Hill’s lawyer, Brian Kammer, said he was “deeply disappointed” that the 11th Circuit “found that procedural barriers prevent them from considering the compelling new evidence.” He said it is likely he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Hill’s claims....
Hill was sentenced to death for killing Joseph Handspike, an inmate serving a life sentence in the same state prison where Hill was incarcerated. In 1990, Hill bludgeoned Handspike to death with a nail-studded wooden board. At the time, Hill was already serving a life sentence for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend, Myra Wright, by shooting her 11 times in 1986.
The full 69-page split panel ruling in In re Hill, No. 13-10702 (11th Cir. April 22, 2012), is available at this link.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Sixth Circuit panel finds reasonable 30-day contempt sentence for courtroom cell phone use by observerThe sentencing component of this local Ohio article caught my attention based on the headline "Tweeting and texting earns Cleveland man contempt of court charge, 30 days in jail." Here are the basics:
Cell phones are routinely used in classrooms and bathrooms — sometimes even in churches. But not in federal courtrooms, where all electronic devices are banned. But that didn’t stop Maurtez Prince, 22, of Cleveland, from trying to sneak in a few tweets and texts last year during a buddy’s sentencing hearing at the U.S. District Courthouse in Akron.
Prince will be able to contemplate his crime from behind jail bars, where he will spend 30 days for contempt of court.
On May 31, the day of the friend’s sentencing, an assistant U.S. marshal spotted Prince using his cell phone in the courtroom and ordered him to turn it off, according to court documents. Later, the marshal again caught Prince texting and confiscated the phone.
Then, when Prince went to reclaim his phone, the marshal pointed out the three signs outside the courtroom banning cell phones and any cameras or recording devices, the court documents state. That’s when Prince admitted having photographed his friend with the phone.
When U.S. District Judge John Adams heard about the incident he ordered Prince to appear before him and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt. Prince argued that he had not deliberately defied a court order against cell phones or taking photographs, his lawyer said. He claimed he hadn’t seen the signs, and had misunderstood the marshal, believing he simply had to silence his phone. "Mr. Prince was very apologetic to the judge and the marshal for what he did," said Assistant Federal Public Defender Edward Bryan. "He wasn’t cocky at all. It was his first time in federal court and he didn’t understand the seriousness of his actions."
But Adams was not persuaded and found Prince guilty, stating that "the most troubling part" of the crime was that Prince had continued using his phone after he had been ordered to stop. Adams sentenced Prince to 30 days in jail, but allowed him to remain free pending an appeal.
On Friday, a three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati released a six-page opinion affirming Adams’s sentence. Judge Deborah Cook wrote that Prince demonstrated "willful disobedience" and that "ample evidence supports the district court’s contempt finding."
A sentence of a month in jail for use of a cell phone in a courtroom struck me as quite severe, but the unpublished Sixth Circuit panel opinion in US v. Prince, No. 12-3789 (6th Cir. April 19, 2013) (available here), suggests to me there may be a lot more to the story. Specifically, the panel opinion highlights that Prince has a significant criminal history and that he may have been doing something quite nefarious when seeking to take pictures and send texts during another's federal sentencing proceedings. In other words, after reading the panel opinion in Prince, I was less troubled by the decision to sentence this defendant to a month in lock-up for his contempt of court.
But I remain curious and uncertain as to whether there are perhaps some First Amendment implications here given that the courtroom Prince was in was not sealed and that sentencings are generally to be public proceedings. I presume the First Amendment would generally preclude a courtroom spectator from being punished for writing/reporting on-line (say on a blog) about a public federal sentencing while that spectator has moved into the hallways of a public courthouse. Should I just view the courtroom ban/punishment here a proper time, place, manner restriction on the First Amendment, or do others agree there might be some important constitutional issues here?
April 21, 2013 in Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Thursday, April 18, 2013
"Justice Reinvestment in Action: The Delaware Model"The title of this post is the title of this recently released policy brief from the Vera Institute of Justice. This posting by Alison Shames of Vera provides a preview of the context and content of this report, and here are excerpts:
To date, more than a dozen states have participated in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and worked with the Vera Institute of Justice, the Council of State Governments, or The Pew Charitable Trusts to analyze their state-specific data, identify the drivers of their corrections populations, and develop policies that aim to reduce spending and generate savings. Once the policies are passed into law, these jurisdictions continue to receive technical assistance to help with implementation and ensure that the changes and investments achieve their projected outcomes.
What this means in practice is described in Vera’s new report, Justice Reinvestment in Action: The Delaware Model. In 2012, after a year of analysis and consensus-building, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed SB 226, introducing a sea change to the way the state justice agencies conduct business. At every step in the process — pretrial, sentencing, prison, and supervision — SB 226 requires enhanced decision making based not only on professional judgment but also data analysis and empirically based risk and needs assessment instruments. If implemented correctly, up to $27.3 million could be available for reinvestment over the next five years.
Continued and increased support for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative — in the form of technical assistance and seed funding — is critical to making these methods available to additional jurisdictions and ensuring that the states realize their projected savings and enhance public safety. The future of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative looks bright, with President Obama including $85 million for this effort in his proposed 2014 budget, an increase of $79 million over last year's appropriation.
Implementing evidence-based practices and enabling justice agencies to integrate data analysis into their operations in an ongoing and sustainable way is hard work that takes time, patience, up-front investment, and strong leadership. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative builds and develops the leadership and contributes to the initial investment. Delaware is just one of a dozen success stories. The hard work continues.
Some older and more recent related posts:
- Important new Vera report on "Reconsidering Incarceration"
- New Vera Institute report looks at performance funding for criminal justice reform
- Potent prison projections from Pew
- New proposals from CSG's Justice Center for how Michigan can cut correction costs
- "Justice Reinvestment" in Texas
- "Reallocating Justice Resources: a Review of 2011 State Sentencing Trends"
- "Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment"
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
"Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment"The title of this post is the title of a notable new "paper co-authored by a group of researchers, analysts, and advocates dedicated to ending mass incarceration in the U.S." The full 36-page report is available at this link, and this webpage provides an overview of the contents. Here are some of the basics:
Justice Strategies Director, Judith Greene, has co-authored Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting A New Justice Reinvestment, with Vanita Gupta and Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, Malcolm Young of Northwestern University Law School's Bluhm Legal Clinic, James Austin of the JFA Institute, Eric Cadora of the Justice Mapping Center, Todd Clear of Rutgers University, Marc Mauer and Nicole Porter of The Sentencing Project, and Susan Tucker, the former Director of The After Prison Initiative at the Open Society Foundations.
The paper traces the history and examines the impact of Justice Reinvestment (JR) since its inception a decade ago to its current incarnation as a national initiative.
The primary conclusion is that while JR has served to soften the ground for criminal justice reform, it has not achieved significant reductions in the correctional populations or costs in most of the states in which it has been conducted. This is in contrast to its original intent: to reduce corrections populations and budgets and reinvest in high incarceration communities to make them safer, stronger, and more equitable.
As originally conceived, Justice Reinvestment called for the reduction of corrections populations and budgets to generate savings that would be reinvested in high incarceration communities to improve public safety, and reverse the destructive effects of mass incarceration and harsh punishment visited disproportionately upon individuals and communities of color.
As implemented through legislation in 18 states, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative has helped stabilize corrections populations and budgets, educate state legislators and public officials about the expense of correctional system, and persuade them to undertake reforms, but it runs the risk of institutionalizing mass incarceration at current levels.
April 17, 2013 in Pot Prohibition Issues, Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
"Clemency for the 21st Century: A Systemic Reform of the Federal Clemency Process"The title of this post is the headline of this new short piece by Mark Osler now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Federal clemency is in crisis. In response to that crisis, a remarkable bipartisan consensus has formed in support of systemic reform. This short statement acknowledges that consensus, and lays out a framework for change. The reforms described here are achievable without significant congressional action, consistent with best practices in the states, and cost-effective. We urge that this administration take the clemency process out of the Department of Justice, create an independent and bipartisan Clemency Board that would report directly to the President, and establish a regular and systemic process for executive consideration of individual cases.
Monday, April 15, 2013
What should happen after improper federal judicial participation in plea negotiations?
The question in the title of this post is the question being considered by the Supreme Court during oral argument today in US v. Davila. I have not given Davila too much attention until now, in part because I think I would prefer a world with a lot more regulation and judicial involvement in plea negotiation. Moreover, as this SCOTUSblog preview by Rory Little suggests, there may be a host of reasons it makes sense for me to be rooting about the federal criminal defendant in this matter. Here is how Rory's effectivepreview starts:
With apologies to fifty-seven of my fellow “Criminal Law and Procedure Professors” who have filed an amicus brief in support of respondent Anthony Davila in United States v. Davila (set for argument on Monday April 15 -- can that really be a coincidence for a felony tax offender?), this looks like a simple case. “Deceptively simple,” Davila’s lawyer Josh Rosenkranz might respond -- his brief does a good job of making one pause at the implications of the underlying facts. But the Question on which the Court granted -- whether “any degree of judicial participation in plea negotiations in violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1) automatically requires” reversal (my emphasis) -- really does not require examination of these implications. In recent years, the Court has firmly rejected endorsing “automatic reversal” rules, let alone ones based on procedural rules rather than the Constitution, rules that many states do not follow. Expect Monday’s argument to be respectful but one-sided on the Question Presented, with the more defendant-friendly Justices perhaps focused on how best to limit a reversal so as to not endorse the disturbing implications that Davila (and his law professor amici) admirably present.
I expect the oral argument transcript in Davila will be available later this afternoon, and I will post it here when it is.
UPDATE: The transcript in United States v. Davila is now available at this link.
Second Circuit finds Cameron Douglas's above-guideline sentence substantively reasonable
The latest (and perhaps final) significant chapter in the federal sentencing saga concerning Cameron Douglas was finished this morning when a Second Circuit panel rejected his claim that his second federal sentence was substantively unreasonableness in US v. Douglas, No. 11-5384 (2d Cir. April 15, 2013) (available here). In addition to thinking the Second Circuit panel came to the right basic outcome here, I am especially pleased that both the majority opinion and the concurrence in Douglas provide an extended discussion of sentencing practice and policy as part of the continuation of a (still nascent, but-not-yet-dormant) post-Booker common law of reasonableness review.
As I have explained in a number of prior posts (which are liked below), I have found the Cameron Douglas story of crime and punishment consistently worthy of attention — in part because the involvement of celebrities at his federal sentencings and in part because of the many legal and social issues raised by the seemingly lenient sentence Michael Douglas's drug-addicted son was given at his first sentencing and the seemingly harsh sentence he got the second time around (some backstory here). The Second Circuit's Douglas opinion tells this story effectively (though leaving out the celebrity part), and then provide a lot of analytical meat for any and all federal sentencing fans to chew on. I highly recommend reading the Douglas opinions in full, though I will here spotlight two notable passages from the opinions concerning the relationship between addiction and drug sentencing.
At the very end of the majority opinion (per Judge Gerard Lynch), we get these notable comments from the Second Circuit panel:
Finally, we take note of the argument, made by Douglas and supported by amici, that punitive sanctions are a less appropriate response to criminal acts by persons suffering from addiction than drug treatment. It may well be that the nation would be better served by a medical approach to treating and preventing addiction than by a criminal-justice-based “war on drugs.” See, e.g., Heather Schoenfeld, The War on Drugs, the Politics of Crime, and Mass Incarceration in the United States, 15 J. Gender Race & Just. 315 (2012); Juan R. Torruella, Déjà Vu: A Federal Judge Revisits the War on Drugs, or Life in a Balloon, 20 B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 167 (2011). But Congress has made a different choice, and this case is not a vehicle for deciding questions of comprehensive drug policy. For so long as the sale and possession of narcotics remain crimes, courts must struggle with the difficult task of sentencing those who commit such crimes.
We do not hold that district courts may not approach cases of addicted defendants who seek treatment and show promise of changing their lives with compassion and with due consideration of the relative costs and effectiveness of treatment versus long prison sentences. Indeed, that is precisely how the district court approached Douglas’s original sentence in this case. Sentencing courts are not required, however, to turn a blind eye to behavior that can reasonably be understood as demonstrating that a particular defendant has shown himself to be a poor candidate for treatment or for leniency. District courts are in the best position to decide whether the defendant before the court is likely to respond to drug treatment or has spurned chances at rehabilitation and persisted in a life of “reckless, criminal, dangerous, destructive, [and] deceitful conduct.” We therefore cannot say that the district court’s assessment of the sentence appropriate for Douglas was unreasonable.
And, at the very start of the concurring opinion by (my former boss) Judge Guido Calabresi, we get these notable comments:
I join the majority opinion in full because I agree that it is not substantively unreasonable for a district judge, after having given a defendant a number of breaks and second chances, to impose a sentence like this one. I write separately to emphasize my view that a term of imprisonment of between 5 and 10 years ought not to be seen merely as a punishment. It also must represent an expression of some faith that the convict might be rehabilitated within that time. Prisons should have a duty, therefore, not just to keep the convict locked away, but to enhance his ability to become a responsible citizen. When the convict’s crime involves drug addiction, a necessary part of this rehabilitation is enforced, medically monitored withdrawal. Congress has passed a law criminalizing possession of drugs by an inmate in federal prison, and there is no question that Douglas broke that law and manifested, as the majority opinion shows, a high level of culpability. There is also no question in my mind, however, that the incidence of this crime also demonstrates a significant level of culpability on the part of the jailing institution. When a prison cannot protect an addicted inmate from the capacity to relapse, it has failed to perform an essential obligation – an obligation that it owes both to the inmate and to the society that the inmate will someday rejoin.
Prior posts concerning Cameron Douglas's federal sentencings:
- Does having celebrity "a-listers" ask for leniency help a defendant's cause at sentencing?
- Cameron Douglas sentenced to five years for federal drug offense
- "Did Michael Douglas' Son Get Celeb Treatment With Reduced Sentence?"
- Should we care that Cameron Douglas, though sentenced to 5 years in prison, will likely be out in 2012?
- Stiff sentence given to Cameron Douglas for drug possession while in prison
- Celebrity federal drug sentencing appeal prompts doctors' brief urging treatment over punishment
- Celebrity witness for high-profile (and interesting) federal sentencing appeal
April 15, 2013 in Booker in the Circuits, Drug Offense Sentencing, Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Florida (finally!!) carries out sentence for child killer who murdered during Carter AdministrationAs reported in this AP article, "Florida executed one of the longest-serving inmates on its death row Wednesday evening, 32 years after he kidnapped and murdered a 10-year-old girl who was riding her bike to school after a dentist put on her braces." Here is more of the story:
Larry Eugene Mann was put to death by lethal injection for kidnapping and murdering Elisa Vera Nelson on Nov. 4, 1980. Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott's office, said Mann was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m. at the Florida State Prison in Starke. He was 59.
The death sentence was carried out more than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Mann's latest appeal. The condemned man answered "Uh, no sir," when asked if he had any last words before the procedure began. There were 28 witnesses to the execution, including media and corrections personnel, and a group of Elisa's relatives sat in the front row wearing buttons with her photo on them.
Afterward, Elisa's family was joined by a group of friends and family as her brother, Jeff Nelson, read a statement describing his sister as a "bright, funny, caring, beautiful little girl" who loved to play baseball and pretend to be a school teacher. He said she was a Girl Scout who would take in stray pets and donated money she earned to charity. She was a cheerleader who loved to dance and sing.
Then he described in horrifying detail how she died, saying Mann abducted her less than 100 yards from her school in Pinellas County. He said his sister fought hard, and Mann beat her, sending blood and hair throughout his pickup truck, as well as the note his mother wrote excusing Elisa from being late to school. He described how Mann pulled over into an abandoned orange grove, slit her throat twice, and then bludgeoned her head with a pipe with a cement base.
He paused from the written statement to add, "We just watched that same man slip into a very peaceful sleep. That's a far cry from how my sister passed."... Elisa's parents, David and Wendy Nelson, watched in silence. Her father kept his arms cross as he stared at Mann, who kept his eyes closed except for a brief moment throughout the procedure.
Outside the prison, there were 43 people gathered in favor of the execution and, in a separate area, 38 people were protesting the death penalty.
In 1980, Mann tried killing himself immediately after the girl's slaying, slashing his wrists and telling responding police officers he had "done something stupid." They thought he was talking about the suicide attempt until a couple of days later when Mann's wife found the bloodied note Elisa's mother wrote.
While Mann sought to die the day he killed Elisa, his lawyers had succeeded in keeping him alive for decades through scores of appeals. His lawyers didn't contest his guilt during appeals, but rather whether he had been properly sentenced to death.
Jeff Nelson criticized the justice system for making his family wait so long. "Elisa was only in our lives for less than 3,800 days and this pedophile and his lawyers have spent nearly 12,000 days -- over three times her entire life -- making a mockery of our legal system," he said.
Of the 406 inmates on death row in Florida, only 28 had been there longer than Mann....
While Mann didn't make a last statement in the death chamber, he did ask that "last words" be handed out after the execution. He chose a Bible verse. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord," Mann wrote out by hand.
Elisa's brother said the family has had to hear over the years that Mann would kneel in prayer while in prison and express remorse for his crime. "He just had his chance to say something and he didn't say anything," Nelson said. "We question whether he was really remorseful."
Though I still remain a troubled agnostic on so many aspects of the modern death penalty, here I share the view of the murder victim's brother that this case ended up "making a mockery of our legal system." If factual guilt was in doubt or if this was a complicated crime implicating competing culpability issues concerning the proper sentence, I suppose I could understand why it might take a decade or more to sort out and then carry out this killer's punishment. But it seems guilt was never in doubt and that the details of the crime and the killer's basic culpability were relatively clear from the outset.
In other words, it appears that the chief reason why final resolution of this case took over 32 years was because the legal system was eager to have a sentencing debate churn over and over and over again. I have long believed that there ought to be a basic rule that provides that if a death sentence cannot be reviewed and upheld through all levels of appeal within 15 years, then it ought just become an LWOP sentence in order to save everyone the time and aggravation of the continued uncertainty and legal fighting over the difference a quicker (execution) or slower (LWOP) death sentence. Indeed, I think it is interesting to speculate whether the family of the murder victims in this case would have been able to better more on with their lives if in, say, 1995 it was simply decided that Larry Eugene Mann would just serve LWOP. (It is also interesting to speculate whether Larry Eugene Mann might have died before April 2013 if he had gotten an LWOP sentence from the outset instead of a death sentence which surely led to him getting a lot more attention from lawyers and courts throughout the last three decades.)
April 13, 2013 in Death Penalty Reforms, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Victims' Rights At Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack
Friday, April 12, 2013
Terrific SCOTUSblog preview of Kebodeaux and SORNAA helpful reader reminded me not only that the Supreme Court has a last few criminal justice cases slated for oral argument the next few weeks as its term winds down, but also that one sex offender case, US v. Kebodeaux, due to be argued next week raises a host of intricate legal issue. Helpfully, Steven Schwinn sorts through Kebodeaux via this terrific (and very lengthy) post at SCOTUSblog titled "Argument preview: Can Congress punish a former sex offender for failure to register?". Here are highlights from the analysis section of the preview:
This is a narrow case. It involves a defendant who represents a relatively small and, with time, diminishing class of individuals (those with sex-offender convictions pre-SORNA). It involves a defendant who is subject to SORNA by virtue of his military conviction, and not his interstate travel. And it involves a challenge to SORNA’s penalty provision, and not its other provisions (including its registration provision, although it may be hard to separate the two here)....
In short, this is no broadside challenge to congressional authority to require sex-offender registration. Instead, it is a very narrow case. And we can expect the Court to address it that way.
Still, bigger issues are likely to emerge in the arguments. Thus, look for the Court to press the government for limits on congressional authority, and to ask the government about federal intrusion into areas of traditional state concern. In other words, some on the Court are likely to worry about whether the government’s theories lead to an expansive federal power that can encroach too far on the states.
On the other hand, look for the Court to ask Kebodeaux about the sweep of federal power under Comstock, especially when Kebodeaux came under federal authority because of his military service, and not because of his interstate travels. Look for the Court also to test Kebodeaux’s theory of federal control pre-SORNA, given the full sex-offender registration scheme under the Wetterling Act (including the federal penalty for failure to register, and also including the federal financial incentives for states to create their own registrations and other features of the Act). The Court could see SORNA’s application to Kebodeaux as only a modest additional exercise of federal authority, given these considerations.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
"The most interesting part of [Rand Paul's] speech was his widely anticipated defense of drug law reform."The title of this post is drawn from this early report via Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post concerning Senator Rand Paul's notable policy speech today at Howard University. Here is some context and more content from Rubin's strong first-cut analysis of Senator Rand's efforts (with one particular line emphasized by me):
Regular readers (and certainly my dad and close friends) know that my political commitments lean toward the libertarian, and thus I was inclined to be a fan of Senator Rand Paul from the get-go. More broadly, as regular readers and others surely know, I strongly believe our modern federal criminal justice system ought not be so committed to costly big national government one-size-fits-all solutions for what seem, at least to me, to often be local small community diverse problems. Thus, I am especially excited that Senator Paul is apparently committed to bringing his libertarian perspective to the arena of federal criminal justice reform.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered an important and intriguing speech at Howard University as part of his determined effort to expand the reach of the GOP and take his message everywhere.
His remarks, as prepared for delivery, highlighted the best and the worst aspects of his thinking, and they left some question marks....
The most interesting part of the speech was his widely anticipated defense of drug law reform. “I am working with Democratic senators to make sure that kids who make bad decisions, such as non-violent possession of drugs, are not imprisoned for lengthy sentences. I am working to make sure that first-time offenders are put into counseling and not imprisoned with hardened criminals. We should not take away anyone’s future over one mistake.” He described two young men, one white and privileged and the other mixed race and modest in income, who could have had their lives ruined by a drug arrest. He concluded with a kicker: “Instead, they both went on to become presidents of the United States. But for the grace of God, it could have turned out much differently.”
He then explained his opposition to mandatory minimum sentences:
"Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy-handed and arbitrary. They can affect anyone at any time, though they disproportionately affect those without the means to fight them. We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence. That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community."...
It was a nervy effort on his part, and a sincere one, I think, to explain his views to an audience not enamored of his party or philosophy. He should do more of it, and in more concrete terms, to persuade and explain how his philosophy works and why liberalism doesn’t.
He is a force to be reckoned with; liberals and conservatives ignore him at their own risk. If nothing else, he demonstrated that a forceful reiteration of history can illuminate the Republican Party and that conservatism deserves a fair hearing. That’s more than 90 percent of Republicans have done.
But the single sentence I have highlighted above reflect a different theme and one that strikes a different chord with my own philosophical commitments. Saying that "We should not take away anyone’s future over one mistake," reflects not a unique political philosophy but rather suggests a kind of personal moral philosophy grounded in a deep commitment to (1) recognizing the reality of human fallibility, and (2) embracing the potential for human improvement and achievement even after a human mistake is made.
Of course, if one really accepts this kind of deep moral commitment and wants criminal laws to reflect this commitment, there are a whole lot of important sentencing implications beyond reform of federal drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing terms. Such a personal moral philosophy, at least in my view, would necessarily call for eliminating the death penalty and LWOP for any and all first offenders, and it might even call for eliminating any imprisonment any and all first offenders. But I do not want to, at least right now, start setting out a script for just how Senator Rand Paul should seek to operationalize his political and personal philosophies. For now I just want to (a) celebrate the fact that he is really starting to talk the talk on long-needed federal criminal justice reforms, and (b) continue to get excited about how he will be soon walking the walk on long-needed federal criminal justice reforms.
Some recent and older related posts:
- "Bipartisan Legislation To Give Judges More Flexibility For Federal Sentences Introduced"
- Could Romney appeal to independents and minorities with bold crime and punishment vision?
- "Right on Crime: The Conservative Case for Reform" officially launches
- "NAACP, right-wing foes get friendly" when it comes to prison costs
- "Conservatives latch onto prison reform"
- NAACP head recognizes Tea Party favors some progressive criminal justice reforms (and sometimes more than Democrats)
- Rand Paul begins forceful pitch in campaign against federal mandatory minimums
April 10, 2013 in Drug Offense Sentencing, Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack
Amnesty International reports on latest state of death penalty around the globeAs reported in this New York Times article, yesterday Amnesty International released its annual compilation of capital punishment trends. Here are the basics:
At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.... Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.
“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.
It said at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2012, two more than 2011, and at least 1,722 death sentences were imposed in 58 countries, compared with 1,923 imposed in 63 countries the year before....
Amnesty also pointed out that its compilation excluded what it said were the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret. The organization said it still believed China remained the world’s top executioner.
Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43. The report also noted that only nine American states executed prisoners in 2012, compared with 13 the year before, and that in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.
The full AI report and additional related information can be accessed from this link.