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March 27, 2010

Important and timely new paper on judicial sentence modification and early release

Thus coming Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in important "back end" sentencing cases: Dillon v. US (09-6338) and Barber v. Thomas (09-5201). Though I will preview these cases in some coming posts, both cases raise questions about the role of judges and the procedures used to modify sentences and provide for early release from imposed prison terms. Given these SCOTUS plans, this new piece on SSRN from Cecelia Klingele is a timely must-read.  The piece is titled "Changing the Sentence Without Hiding the Truth: Judicial Sentence Modification as a Promising Method of Early Release," and here is the abstract:

Last year, as the State of California struggled with a $42 billion budget deficit, its financial inability to correct constitutionally-deficient prison conditions led a federal court to order the release of 40,000 state prisoners. In Oregon, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont, and Delaware, spending on corrections now exceeds spending on higher education.  Across the nation, more than 1 of every 100 Americans is behind bars. When the financial crisis of 2008 dealt its blow, state correctional budgets were already nearing a breaking point.  Now, in the wake of unprecedented budget shortfalls, state governments have been forced to confront a difficult reality: the ever-increasing prison population has come at too high a price. The question is no longer whether to reduce the number of prisoners, but how.

Reversing years of ever-harsher sentencing policies, jurisdictions throughout the United States are trying to cut costs by expanding good time credit, increasing parole eligibility, and authorizing new forms of early release.  This Article examines judicial sentence modification, an often overlooked ameliorative mechanism that has potential benefits many other forms of early release lack.  For states wishing to promote early release in a manner that is both transparent and publicly accountable, judicial sentence modification is a promising, and potentially sustainable, new mechanism for sentence reduction.

March 27, 2010 at 01:38 PM | Permalink


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