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May 8, 2007

Great observation on NY's new sentencing reform initiative

Though locked up by a subscription, I saw a great piece in yesterday's New York Law Journal entitled "New York's New Commission on Sentencing Reform" by Alan Vinegrad and Douglas Bloom.  The article thoughtfully discusses Governor Eliot Spitzer's establishment of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform (previously discussed here).  Here are some passages from the informative and insightful article:

The [federal] Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 directed the USSC to create and maintain a determinate sentencing system with the now-familiar Sentencing Guidelines as its centerpiece.  The [New York] Commission on Sentencing Reform, on the other hand, does not appear to have been developed with any particular system in mind.  Rather, it has been given the open-ended charge of recommending legislative fixes that include alternatives to incarceration and take into account the fiscal impact of the prison system.  It appears that, beyond simple uniformity, the commission's aim is to reduce prison populations while still maintaining public safety and the traditional goals of criminal punishment....

Combined with a separate proposed program to consolidate and close state prisons, cost may have been a motivating factor behind the creation of the new commission.  With the political freedom to experiment that comes with lower crime rates, Governor Spitzer appears to be seizing the opportunity to explore ways to reduce crime and improve the state budget at the same time.  Although not abandoning the goal of limiting sentencing disparity, he has effectively charged his new committee with the difficult task of finding ways to reduce crime and dampen recidivism while still protecting the community at reduced costs. 

By focusing on alternatives to incarceration, the commission has an opportunity to achieve this goal. In a sense, Governor Spitzer's answer to Mayor Koch is that the state may not need to choose between education and incarceration.  Through re-entry programs, education programs and alternatives to sentencing — such as the Drug and Community Court systems — the state may be able to reduce crime while simultaneously reducing incarceration.

May 8, 2007 at 04:18 PM | Permalink


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I am not commenting in a professional capacity, wrather in a motherly capacity. One way to reduce prison population is for the parole board to release people when they should. There are so very many inmates in New York State that could be paroled but they are not. They try and try and they complete all that is asked and still are locked behind bars for longer than they should be. Of course this board feels they have the right to do this so they, I guess, are beyond the laws in this respect. It's a shame for me tho think this way but I consider it a lottery, if they need bed space you get out if not then you stay in and that is the opinion of many people that I talk to. This is an area that sorely needs some big attention.

Posted by: Liz | Oct 1, 2007 9:09:48 PM

As a retired corrections officer...I saw many inmates that have turned there lives around in every positive way and I thought they they would make the board...but time after time...the parole board...loophole..."Nature of your crime" has been used over and over again in the NYS Corrections system...that no matter what these men and woman accomplish...or achieve...as they prove themselves worthy of parole...the parole board...keeps them in prison with that same loophole...("Nature of your crime")...that..loophole must! be removed so that the incarcerated who prove themselves worthy to be released..can be released...we must stop making them jump threw all those hoops..just to be denied over and over again..it's a cruel game that the parole boards in NYS play...I hope it ends today.

Posted by: Bernice | Dec 26, 2008 6:24:36 PM

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