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January 5, 2023

Council on Criminal Justice releases "Reflections on Long Prison Sentences: A Conversation with Crime Survivors, Formerly Incarcerated People, and Family Members"

In this post last year, I noted the formation of the Council of Criminal Justice's impressive Task Force on Long Sentences.  Today,  CCJ released its latest publication from the Task Force, titled "Reflections on Long Prison Sentences: A Conversation with Crime Survivors, Formerly Incarcerated People, and Family Members.This full 20-page report is worth a full read, and here are the document's "Key Takeaways":

While participants shared their experiences with long sentences from different perspectives, the views expressed reflected numerous common themes. These included:

+ Prison sentences-including long sentences-should serve the purpose of rehabilitation, a goal that many participants said was often impeded by a lack of programming in prisons.

+ Long sentences are not synonymous with accountability; rather, accountability comes from taking responsibility for the harm caused and making amends through personal changes.

+ People serving long sentences should have the opportunity to seek reconsideration of that sentence after a period of time through a process that bases release decisions, in part, on the cognitive, behavioral, and/or emotional growth individuals make while incarcerated.

+ Victims and survivors of crime should have a role in any sentencing reconsideration.

Participants made several specific recommendations in line with these themes.  These included:

+ Provide programming and counseling to all individuals serving long sentences

+ Permit crime victims and survivors to request specific programming for the defendant in their case to complete while incarcerated, as part of pre-sentencing investigation reports

+ Provide victims and survivors, upon request, with information regarding expressions of remorse, educational or skills training, and other personal changes made by incarcerated individuals in their cases

+ In cases of sentencing reconsideration, provide victims and survivors general information about supports available to the incarcerated person post-release

+ Provide more opportunities for victim-offender dialogue throughout long prison sentences

+ Enhance transparency and communication during criminal justice processes and create mechanisms for quickly referring victims and survivors to community-based counseling and other therapeutic services

+ Give judges more complete contextual information about the background of the person being sentenced or resentenced, including facts about the impact of the crime(s) on victims and survivors

+ Provide earlier intervention and healing to at-risk children to prevent future crime, sparing individuals, families, and communities from the pain of violence and from the loss of young persons to long prison sentences

January 5, 2023 at 02:07 PM | Permalink


On topic: https://reason.com/volokh/2023/01/05/ex-con-hired-as-law-clerk-for-michigan-supreme-court-justice-then-resigns-after-controversy-arises/

Posted by: federalist | Jan 5, 2023 3:36:48 PM

I am inclined to share Eugene's take, federalist. Do you?

Posted by: Doug B | Jan 5, 2023 8:46:14 PM

Yep. As you probably know, I am all about harsh sentences for bad crimes. Much of that reason comes from ideas about risk allocation. This guy has proven that he can live in a society (meaning that the risk allocation rationale is gone)--so I have zero interest in further punishing him. I'd consider a pardon were I governor. His crimes were serious, and he did serious time for them. He got a chance (maybe he should not have, but he did), and he made the most of it. He paid a heavy price. Nothing is served by adding to that price.

I wish that the judge had more fortitude.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 6, 2023 10:48:39 AM

I assume, Doug, that my response was pretty much what you thought it was going to be. I'll say this--I may not agree with taking chances on a particular criminal, but if that chance is taken, and the criminal lives a law-abiding life, I wouldn't generally agree with revisiting the chance that was taken or inflicting additional harm on the particular criminal.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 6, 2023 10:56:02 AM

I was unsure, federalist, which is why I asked. Bill Otis was quick to criticize me when for a commentary in which I suggested a person with history in prison ought to be a member of the US Sentencing Commission. Even folks who generally favor second changes sometimes contend (a) that certain types of offenders ought not get a second chance, and/of (b) that certain types of opportunities (eg, govt service) ought not be part of any second chance giving. This case, with a police shootout as part of the crime and with the position a prominent clerkship, could fall into either category for some.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 6, 2023 12:07:59 PM

I don't know that I'd reserve a spot on the US Sentencing Commission for a criminal, but I wouldn't be categorically opposed.

This guy working for a Supreme Court is a lot less offensive than Kevin Clinesmith getting his law license back.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 6, 2023 12:25:13 PM

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