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December 23, 2021

Might we celebrate this Festivus with a polite airing of sentencing grievances?

I am not quite sure if Festivus is still something in the pop culture ether, but I am sure that I still get a kick out of reviewing the faux-holiday's grand traditions,   And I am especially sure that, thanks to a seemingly endless pandemic and a toxic political environment, the Festivus tradition of airing grievances seems to be now an almost daily ritual for many. 

That all said, especially as another notable sentencing year winds down, I am eager to yet again welcome and encourage any and all readers eager to air their sentencing grievances in the comments.  As the title of this post suggests, I urge everyone to make extra efforts to be extra polite in any Festivus grievances being aired.  I hope that is not too much to ask in a holiday season.  

I will try to set the tone with a grievance that will be familiar to regular readers: I am disappointed we did not get nominations to the US Sentencing Commission in 2021.  But I am quite optimistic that we will be getting nominations in early 2022, and I am hoping a new USSC will demonstrate all sorts of "feats of strength" as it gets to work on long overdue federal sentencing reform projects.


December 23, 2021 at 01:11 PM | Permalink


I'm aggrieved by the Biden administration's pardon power progress (none), especially as it relates to those still serving federal LWOP sentences for juvenile offenses.

Posted by: John | Dec 23, 2021 2:40:34 PM

I'm aggrieved by our continued coddling of the criminal class, that we keep giving them another chance to reform rather than simply executing them after one or two offenses.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 23, 2021 4:06:16 PM

Ahh, the spirit of hope for redemption, just in time for the holidays. Thanks, SH!

Posted by: John | Dec 24, 2021 12:47:05 AM

The Court has failed to take up worthy federal sentencing cases (e.g., Bryant).

Posted by: H&H Bagel | Dec 24, 2021 1:05:40 AM

This was the last place I expected to find an H&H reference, but I’ll take it!

Posted by: kotodama | Dec 24, 2021 6:28:41 AM

Hey kotodama: I rewatched the Festivus episode of Seinfeld last night, and was reminded that the episode was actually called "The Strike" because one plot line involved Cosmo Kramer returning to work at H&H Bagels after a 12-year strike had been resolved. So extra kudos to the H&H commentator for the "deep cut" reference.

Notably, sentencing play a role in Seinfeld in various ways, so all other relevant deep cut references will always be deeply appreciated.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 24, 2021 11:36:51 AM

We need Biden's Clemency for people serving life and other egregious sentences for marijuana.

Posted by: beth curtis | Dec 24, 2021 11:55:47 AM

Instead of airing grievances, I want to give voice to gratitude -- gratitude for two things. First, to Doug Berman for hosting a site where informed debate is welcome (even if it doesn't always occur); and second, for the strong, bi-partisan recognition during the Reagan years that we had a big crime problem, and the steps Congress under both parties, and then Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush, took to follow through on those reforms, building a far less crime-ridden and safer country, benefiting all our citizens, but blacks in particular.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 26, 2021 5:35:56 PM

Hi Bill -
Brett Miler here. I know you view the criminal justice system as a success story but I just have one minor grievance - the fact that we tend to view criminals as "us against them" and that we tend to want to use incarceration as much as possible instead of trying to help the sociological and biological deficits that cause criminality - I'm glad you are back commenting.

Posted by: Brett Miler | Dec 26, 2021 9:19:42 PM

Brett Miller --

"[W]e tend to view criminals as 'us against them' and that we tend to want to use incarceration as much as possible..."

We surely do not want to use incarceration as much as possible. Among the fraction of crimes that are prosecuted and wind up with a conviction (in federal court, the jurisdiction with which I am familiar), about half the sentences are at or very close to the low point in the Guidelines range, and about the other half are downward departures BELOW the range. Only one to two percent are upward departures. It would not be that way at all we if we really wanted to use incarceration "as much as possible."

In addition, the prison population has been declining overall for at least the last ten years -- something else that would not be happening if your view were correct.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 26, 2021 10:32:54 PM

Hi Bill - I just was commenting on your steadfast opposition to “reform” - to make sentences shorter or to not prosecute crimes. You seem to have some very conservative beliefs - that making sentences shorter (parole) is at least dishonest and at most lethal, and that people can stay out of trouble by just listening to or having a conscience. I have just observed over the last several years that many people may be unable to obey the law through no fault of their own (brain trauma, poverty, poor parenting) and that we should take into account these factors when judging individuals. I also believe that parole is useful because it can account for rehabilitation or it can alleviate pressure on overcrowded prisons and that may be more worthwhile in the long run than building prisons. Thank you for reading - Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Dec 26, 2021 11:42:02 PM

Former Philly Mayor Michael Nutter sure shared his grievances with Sorios-funded Larry Krasner. Somehow I bet that Doug won’t have much to say about this Blue on Blue warfare,

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 29, 2021 12:36:37 PM

What kind of comments are you looking for, Federalist? I am intrigued to see you mention a key campaign financial supporter for Krasner. I recall you are not keen on campaign finance reform efforts, so I assume you are not really complaining about the role of money in modern politics.

On the criminal justice merits, I continue to look for strong empirical work linking prosecutorial reforms and crime rates, but I have seen very few AND it still may be too early to unpack these stories responsibly. Especially with pandemic realities, homicide and gun violence patterns seem to defy so far any simplistic prosecutor-based explanation. But the people of Philly just re-elected Kramer, so it seems they are content enough with the job he is doing.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 30, 2021 1:31:17 PM

One might be tempted to think that the (black) former (Democratic) mayor of Philadelphia knows more about the effect of Krasner's Soros-inspired policies, under which murder has flourished as never before, than those who don't live in Philly and seldom if ever visit.

And the rote invocation of the pandemic as the excuse for every left-wing failure and broken promise (and inflation and the supply chain and on and on) has become considerably overworked.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 30, 2021 6:17:20 PM

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