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April 30, 2017

"Purpose-Focused Sentencing: How Reforming Punishment Can Transform Policing"

The title of this post is the title of this essay authored by Jelani Jefferson Exum recently posted on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Today’s discussions about police reform have focused on changing police training and procedures.  As accounts of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers have played out in the news and social media, demands for racial justice in policing have become more prevalent.  To end what I have coined as “the Death Penalty on the Street,” there have been calls for diversity training, training on non-lethal force, and, of course, community policing.  While it is perfectly rational for the response to excessive police force to be a focus on changing policing methods, such reforms will only have limited success as long as attitudes about black criminality remain the same.  Though we would like to hold them to a higher standard, police officers are merely human, so they carry with them the same biases and prejudices that any of us can hold.  Studies have shown that, in general, Americans are -- regardless of our race -- biased against blacks, especially young black men.  African Americans are more likely seen as criminals, and most of us overestimate the amount of crime attributable to the black population.  Therefore, in order to truly address the problem of racial injustice in policing, we must address the racial biases held by our society that play out in our criminal justice system.  Though perhaps not the obvious place for this revolution to start, sentencing reform has the potential to change the face of the punishment in our country, thus transforming the (usually black) face of whom we see as deserving of punishment by the police and the courts.

This Essay proposes “purpose-focused sentencing” as a means of remedying the over-incarceration of blacks, thereby combatting attitudes about crime and black criminality, and in turn, affecting how police see and treat blacks.  The goal is to reduce the racial disparity in incarceration, not solely through an overall lessened reliance on prisons and jails, but also by assessing and identifying appropriate sentences to fulfill criminal justice purposes.  Once those purposes -- deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and retribution -- are identified and assessed, there will not be room to justify disparities in sentencing attributable only to the race of the defendant.  All sentences, regardless of the peculiarities of an individual defendant, must be tailored to a specific result, rather than imposed at the whim of a particular judge or in accordance with legislation that has no basis in an identified sentencing goal.  As a result, we will see prisons and jails being used much more exclusively (to the extent that incarceration is used at all) for violent, repeat felons, which statistics tell us are not where our racial disparities lie today.  When punishment is more closely aligned with what the offender has done, and what our goals of punishments are given that behavior, we can begin to combat the stereotype that the dangerous criminal is most likely black.

Once sentencing no longer feeds into the heightened public view of blacks as criminals, the spillover effect will be that the new wave of police officers will not see blacks this way either.  And if they do, society certainly will not view this biased police violence against blacks as reasonable.  This Essay offers a solution that will take years, if not generations, to implement; and it will perhaps take even longer for it to completely transform the face of policing.  However, the proposal is a long-term approach that will immediately begin to move criminal justice in the right direction and encourage honest conversations about what we are trying to do in our system and how our current methods of punishment are only perpetuating racial injustice.

April 30, 2017 at 01:40 PM | Permalink


I take deep offense at this racist article, by yet another victim of the indoctrination at Harvard Law School. The pseudo-black feminist author has lighter skin than I do. Her skin is likely to be 90% British Isles.

Sweetie, there are no racial differences in criminality, in anti-social personality disorder (ASPD) or in conduct disorder, the childhood version of ASPD.

There are differences in bastardy rates, after the feminist lawyers destroyed the black family. Black immigrants have lower crime rates than whites. Why? US pseudo-black rate is over 70%. White rate is 40%, and theirs is much lower, around 6%, despite very dark skins.

To say, Black people have a high crime rate is completely false. Bastards of any color have a high crime rate.

You have to love the lawyer. It destroys the family. Then it decries the high arrest of the resulting bastards. It is the devil, seeking our destruction.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 30, 2017 2:52:15 PM

The pronoun "it," in the above remark, is gender neutral. The gender of the lawyer is equal. Then, all lawyers are female feminists or feminist male running dogs. That is because feminism is not even a real ideology. It is a lawyer scheme to go after the assets of productive males.

All lawyers should be referred to as "it." Any other pronoun is sexist, stereotypic, a false differentiation, and highly offensive. All lawyers are the same, and "it." Any party using the sexist "he" or "she" should be sued for a hostile environment, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Any appellate judge not using the pronoun "it" in any legal utterance should be made to resign or should be impeached.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 30, 2017 3:02:22 PM

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