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March 21, 2023

CCJ releases "How long is long enough?: Task force on long sentences final report"

I have repeatedly noted this post from last year discussing the Council of Criminal Justice's impressive Task Force on Long Sentences, in part because that Task Force for the better part of a year has been producing all sorts of important research and analysis concerning long sentences (see prior posts linked below).  And today I am excited to see that the Task Force's main report, titled "How long is long enough?," has been released today with 14 thoughtful recommendations.  Released along with this full report is this press release, which helps summarize the work of the Task Force and its report.  Here is how the press release starts:

As cities across the nation grapple with effective responses to increases in violent crime, a task force co-chaired by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy today released a report outlining a comprehensive approach for the use of lengthy prison sentences in the United States. 

The report, How Long is Long Enough?, presents 14 recommendations to enhance judicial discretion in sentencing, promote individual and system accountability, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, better serve victims of crime, and increase public safety.  Defining long sentences as prison terms of 10 years or longer, the panel’s proposals include:

  • Shifting savings from reductions in the use of long prison sentences to programs that prevent violence and address the trauma it causes individuals, families, and communities (Recommendation 1).
  • Allowing judges to consider all relevant facts and circumstances when imposing a long sentence, and requiring that sentencing enhancements based on criminal history are driven by individualized assessments of risk and other factors (Recommendations 6 and 8)
  • Providing selective “second look” sentence review opportunities and expanding access to sentence-reduction credits (Recommendations 11 and 12)
  • Focusing penalties in drug cases on a person’s role in a trafficking organization, rather than the amount of drug involved, (Recommendation 7)
  • Reducing recidivism by providing behavioral health services and other rehabilitative living conditions and opportunities in prison (Recommendations 3 and 13)
  • Strengthening services for all crime victims and survivors by enforcing victims’ rights, removing barriers to services, and creating restorative justice opportunities (Recommendations 2, 4, and 9)

Prior related posts on CCJ's Task Force on Long Sentences:

March 21, 2023 at 10:33 AM | Permalink


Thank you Doug for calling attention to this important report. Everyone didn’t agree on everything, but when a range of perspectives this broad collectively concludes that many long prison sentences are too long for either public safety or punishment purposes, it’s a powerful plea for change.

Posted by: Adam Gelb | Mar 21, 2023 12:30:28 PM

Sally Yates gets religion after she's no longer in a position to do anything about it. Shocking.

Posted by: shg | Mar 21, 2023 12:42:29 PM


Something your readers may find interesting---you did a post on Cruz v Arizona

Posted by: federalist | Mar 21, 2023 1:21:00 PM

thanks, federalist. I listened to Will on his podcast, and in this post and in his podcast I think he does not highlight sufficiently that all of the legal machinations in Cruz seem shaped by the sense that Arizona had long been largely trying to nullify the SCOTUS ruling in Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994).

Notably, here is a new article suggesting that over 1/4 of those on AZ death row might now need new sentencing proceedings because of Simmons issues: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/03/21/arizona-faces-reckoning-for-ignoring-supreme-court-in-death-row-cases/11511212002/?gnt-cfr=1

Posted by: Doug B | Mar 21, 2023 1:46:36 PM

The CCJ has published some excellent research over the past year. I wish states heeded the recommendations presented in these reports and reduced sentences for the majority of criminal offenses. I've said before, murder is the only offense that should carry a life sentence and most murder convictions should be parole eligible in 25 years.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 22, 2023 3:22:08 AM

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