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April 28, 2024

An abridged and overdue weekend round-up of recent stories and commentary

I have not had time to do a round-up post in a number of weeks, and I surely cannot here flag all the sentencing/corrections pieces that have caught my eye over that time.  But, to cover a lot of ground in a short space, here are some links to pieces of possible interest to readers on an array of topics.  As always, I welcome comments on which stories and commentaries may merit more attention:

From the AP, "Starting over: Women emerging from prison face formidable challenges to resuming their lives"

From The Appeal, "Biden’s Cannabis Pardons Made Progress. A Federal Expungement Statute Would Go Further."

From CBS News, "Louisiana man sentenced to 50 years in prison, physical castration for raping teen"

From The DP3 Substack (Death Penalty Policy Project), "DP3 Analysis: More Than 10% of U.S. Exonerations in 2023 Involved Wrongful Use or Threat of the Death Penalty"

From Fox News, "California crime reform gets 'unheard of' support from DAs, small businesses, progressive mayors"

From The Hill, "There’s nothing woke about ruling against sleep deprivation in prison"

From The Marshall Project, "They Killed Their Abusive Partners. Now Their Sentences Could Be Reconsidered."

From the Missouri Independent, "Mandatory minimum sentences are an old idea, but not a good one"

From the New York Times, "Black Prisoners Face Higher Rate of Botched Executions, Study Finds"

From Newsweek, "California Democrats Keep Being the Victims of Crime"

From NOLA.com, "New Orleans serial killer who targeted gay men granted parole after 46 years inside Angola"

From Prisons, Prosecutors, and the Politics of Punishment, "States’ Dismal Reaction to Covid in Prisons, Especially for the Elderly"

From Verdict, "Judges, Heretics, and Capital Punishment"

From The War Horse, "‘Consequences of War’–Veterans Incarcerated at Higher Rates and Face Longer Sentences"

April 28, 2024 at 11:28 AM | Permalink


The article from Missouri, as is often the case with Missouri, repeats some common mischaracterizations of Missouri. This mischaracterization is combining parole eligibility restrictions with actual mandatory minimums.

The parole eligibility restrictions do not impact the ability of the trial court to impose the appropriate sentence. Instead, it restricts the ability of the parole board to release offenders. Except for a handful of offenses, Missouri law contains two general restrictions. First, those who have returned to prison after serving time on previous cases are required to serve a higher percentage of time. Most people would consider that to be basic common sense. Second, for a small number of "dangerous" offenses, individuals have to serve eighty-five percent of any sentence imposed. And for this group, the issue is somewhat similar to the issue that applies to every offense: is it better to give longer sentences with discretion vested in a parole board to determine how much time will actually be served or is it better to be clear up front how much time will actually be served on a sentence.

That leaves the real mandatory minimums (and I am not aware of any legislation this year involving real mandatory minimums). In Missouri, we have a handful of offenses which require a prison sentence: 1) armed criminal action (using a weapon to commit a felony); 2) conventional murder (felony murder can receive probation); 3) dangerous felonies committed with a firearm; and 4) certain aggravated sexual offenses (either a very young victim or forcible compulsion and some additional statutory aggravated circumstance). Even then, other than murder in the first degree and those aggravated sexual offenses, the trial court has a wide range of punishment. The General Assembly has simply decided that, for these cases, the severity of the conduct is such that for 99.999% of the cases probation would not be appropriate.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 29, 2024 11:02:51 AM

In regard to the person who was a serial killer at age 16 who got parole, I certainly hope they got it right and that he is no longer a threat. That type of decision needs to have a very low error rate.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 29, 2024 11:34:10 AM

William Jockusch --

A wise concern. And I wonder if, should the paroled killer do it again, there will be any accountability for those who issued the parole.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 29, 2024 1:14:09 PM

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