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December 27, 2008

Any thoughts on the top sentencing stories of the year?

This time of year always lends itself to end-of-year reflections, and I have started reflecting on some of the biggest sentencing stories.  I would welcome reader input on what should be deemed the biggest sentencing stories of 2008. 

Lethal injection litigation, prison overcrowding problems, post-Gall/Kimbroughcircuit rulings, crack retroactivity issues, clemency craziness, and election year debates and developments can all make a case for being the top sentencing story of the year.  And, if I am forgetting others, I trust helpful readers will make sure nothing big gets overlooked.

December 27, 2008 at 10:00 AM | Permalink


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The crack retroactivity thing. While it became inevitable in late 2007, it began to take effect in 2008.

Posted by: Gil Gamesh | Dec 27, 2008 1:02:49 PM

Federal litigation in California - and the underlying cause of overcrowding so dire they now have to let tens of thousands of prisoners out early because the Lege won't pay for adequate healthcare - gets my vote as top national sentencing story.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 27, 2008 4:18:04 PM

Agreed, California’s sentencing mess has to be the big story. Partisan politics, lawmaking through the initiative process and plain old stupidity are a lethal brew. Hopefully the courts will now force some sanity into the system. Certainly this is an embarrassment to those of us in this State, like myself, who have watched a lifetime of work simply wither away.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Dec 27, 2008 7:47:31 PM

The common denominator is contempt for that damn liberal stuff: science. California had carefully crafted laws that were, for the most part, evidence-based. Through fear and loathing over the last 30 years or so, the conservatives first made them change the Penal Code to purposes of punishment only, then through more fear and loathing slowly dismantled everything was was evidence-based and "liberal" (also known as smart on crime). Propaganda became more powerful and effective than knowledge. The conservative agenda to attack everything liberal no matter the consequences, as the Runner quote above makes clear, along with the power of the prison guard union, backed Democrats into a corner out of fear of being labeled "soft on crime," so they agreed to be "stupid on crime" to save their political necks. We can't really blame them though because they had seen too many people voted out of office when the prison guard union didn't like them. For example, DA's who dared to file charges on prison guards for violations of the law found themselves without a job at the next election, or politicians themselves faced the risk:

Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), a longtime leader on corrections reform and a member of the union's "Enemies We Face" list, felt the CCPOA's fury in 1992, when the union gave a substantial contribution to his relatively unknown opponent. Vasconcellos had opposed a prison bond measure and was a frequent critic of the union's contracts. Although Vasconcellos was not defeated, the union's actions had a chilling effect on other potential opponents of the CCPOA in the Legislature.

Posted by: | Dec 28, 2008 11:03:05 AM

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