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November 18, 2014

"Criminal Sentencing Reform: A Conversation among Conservatives"

Thanks to this post by Bill Otis at Crime & Consequences, I see that the Federalist Society recent National Convention included a panel discussion on sentencing reform, which can now be watched in full via YouTube at this link.  Here is how the discussion is described along with its participants:

Although prison populations at the federal level have very recently declined for the first time in decades, prisoner population at the state level rose.  The cost of crime, some that can be measured and some that are impossible to measure, is undoubtedly high, but so too is the cost of incarceration.  Are we striking the right balance in length of sentences?  And what is the proper balance between latitude and sentencing guidelines for judges?  Do the answers to these questions differ for the state versus the federal criminal justice system?

The Federalist Society's Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group presented this panel on "Criminal Sentencing Reform: A Conversation among Conservatives" on Friday, November 14, during the 2014 National Lawyers Convention.

For a host of reasons, I am very pleased and impressed that the Federalist Society brought together a bunch of leading conservatives with various viewpoints to discuss these issues at their National Lawyers Convention. (It would have been nice to have had more than a single panelist who was not a former senior official with the Bush Administration's Justice Department, but I suspect it might be hard to find many conservatives who know a lot about sentencing who were not part of the Bush Administration's Justice Department.)

November 18, 2014 at 02:40 PM | Permalink


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A very revealing conversation. Some takeaways: (1) John Malcolm made a very strong case, from a conservative perspective, on the need for front-end sentencing reform; (2) Judge Pryor, defending federal drug penalty reductions, suggested that back-end prison reform measures largely benefit affluent white people, whose static risk factors are low; (3) the former Attorney General disgracefully misrepresented what pending sentencing reform bills would do (e.g. he suggested that they "decriminalize conduct" and/or send the message of "home free all, you're all free to go"); (4) Bill Otis was his usual charming self, telling Federalist Society members -- to lots of laughs -- that they should oppose sentencing reform because "if Eric Holder is for it, you need to be against it."

Posted by: Jeremy | Nov 18, 2014 3:02:49 PM

What about a not so senior member of the Bush Administration?

I assume not all conservatives with expertise here served in that administration. Their bench, especially with various conservative states, has some depth.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 18, 2014 4:35:05 PM

Not really conservative. One Judge called guidelines, ridiculous.

Bill cam closest but was really far from advocating the end to crime, with millions of victims, $trillions in cost, including to real estate values close to our downtowns, and $billions in injury healthcare costs. The human tool has no measure, being gigantic.

They want tiny changes. There is no evidence the reforms were associated in drops in crime in Texan, nor any measureof the impact.

No one made the points, adjudicated charges are fictitious, so it is unknown if any inmate is violent or not. No one mentioned the surge in murders in the 1980's was associated with turf competition for the lucrative crack market, explaining the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaines.

I appreciated the emphasis on empirical evidence. I was neither surprised nor disappointed they were not conservative. They were incrementalists. They failed to mention root causes, such as lead, obesity, video addictions, the great wealth of the poor, now too lazy even for crime, and plain coolness and fashion of criminality. There were no viable alternatives to the guidelines in keeping the public safe.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 19, 2014 7:18:38 AM

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