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July 15, 2009

"Should Parents Who Offend Receive Sentencing Discounts?"

The title of this post is the question posed at the start of this guest post at the NY Times' Freakonomic blog.  Here is the introduction to the guest post (links and all), and the start of its substance:

We have recently featured two guest posts (here and here) by the authors of a new book called Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties. The authors are Ethan Leib, who is is a scholar-in-residence at Columbia Law School, and an associate professor of law at the University of California-Hastings College of the Law; Dan Markel, the D’Alemberte Professor of Law at the Florida State University in Tallahassee; and Jennifer Collins, a professor of law at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. Leib and Markel usually blog at Prawfs.com. Markel has offered to send interested parties a free PDF of their new book upon request. This is their penultimate post.

Should Parents Who Offend Receive Sentencing Discounts?
A Guest Post
By Jennifer Collins, Ethan J. Leib, and Dan Markel

Many states expressly tell judges to calibrate a sentence based, in part, on one’s family ties and responsibilities in sentencing offenders.  Thus, offenders who are parents to minors or caregivers to spouses or elderly parents may, depending on the jurisdiction, be in a position to receive a sharp discount from the punishment they might otherwise receive.  Not only does this pattern of sentencing discounts facilitate ad hoc disparities between offenders who are otherwise similarly situated across cases, but it also hastens to create inequalities between persons involved in the very same offense.  Even in the generally more restrictive federal context, courts have found ways to extend discounts to offenders deemed to have extraordinary “family ties and responsibilities.”

Our view is that sentencing discounts for offenders with family ties require scrutiny and, in some cases, re-tailoring, and in other cases, rejection.

July 15, 2009 at 03:49 PM | Permalink


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I could see giving a discount if the crime were somehow related to attempting to provide care or protection. IE, the classic bread thief or a parent who commits an imperfect defense of others. However in the sense of some generic crime I would oppose this sort of discount. Especially in cases where the offense shows a lack of responsibility toward the ostensible dependant.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 15, 2009 3:59:35 PM

The authors are enemies of the American family. They want to elevate friendship to its privileged level. Homosexuals will never form a family. The best they can hope for is a friendship. These rent seeking lawyers want to destroy the family and elevate friendship for the lawyer clients, the criminals, the homosexuals, and all manner of freaks. Leib of the San Fran area is the brains of this operation, with San Fran values for the lawyer client and for their legal writing.

Meanwhile, they are hypocrites. They have the utmost in traditional families for themselves.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 15, 2009 5:12:20 PM

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