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Criminal Law

Sentencing Law and Policy Sentencing Law and Policy

News, issues, commentary and provides resources related to sentencing law and policy.
By Douglas A. Berman

Post Frequency: 44.5/day

Last Entry: August 21, 2014 at 16:11:25

Recent Entries: 9131

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"The Scarlet Letter of the Law: A Place for Shaming Punishments in Arizona"

Posted on August 21, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this paper by Michael Lee Dynes and Henry Edward Whitmer recently posted on SSRN. Here is the abstract: Trends in penological methods come and go, changing as a society?s attitude shifts,...


After Ferguson, can and should marijuana legalization and drug war reform become a unifying civil rights movement?

Posted on August 21, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted in part by my own uncertainty concerning the fitting public policy responses to the events in Feguson this month and in part by this potent and provocative new Huffington Post...


Kentucky Supreme Court affirms that ineffective assistance of counsel waivers in plea agreements are ehtically suspect

Posted on August 21, 2014
Via an e-mail from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer, I just learned of a notable new opinion from the Kentucky Supreme Court. Here is an excerpt from the NACDL's account of the ruling (as well as a link...


"Let's reserve costly prison beds for dangerous offenders"

Posted on August 21, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary appearing in Utah's Deseret News and authored by Grover Norquist and Derek Monson. Here are excerpts: As the economy continues to sputter, Utah should continue to heed the...


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Detailing the significant increase in California lifers getting parole

Posted on August 20, 2014
This local article, headlined "Life with parole no longer means life term: Legal ruling causes steady rise in parole for California's lifers," highlights that parole has recently become a realistic possibility again for lifers in California. Here are the details:...


"15 years without an execution: the death penalty in Pennsylvania"

Posted on August 20, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this local article highlighting Pennsylvania's remarkably long de facto moratorium on executions despite sending a significant number of murderers to death row." Here are the details: Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett has...


Pennsylvania Supreme Court declares $75K mandatory fine constitutionally excessive for $200 theft

Posted on August 20, 2014
Thanks to How Appealing, I just saw this fascinating new unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania v. Eisenberg, No. (Pa. Aug. 19, 2014) (available here). Here is how the lengthy opinion gets started: The controlling issue...


Senator Whitehouse defends risk-assessment tools for some sentencing determinations

Posted on August 19, 2014
The New York Times today published this letter-response by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to this recent NYT commentary expressing concern about the use of risj-assessment tools in sentencing decision making. Here is the full text of the published letter: In ?Sentencing,...


Is an end to the modern drug war the only real way to prevent future Fergusons?

Posted on August 19, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this provocative new commentary by John McWhorter in The New Republic. The piece is headlined "There Is Only One Real Way to Prevent Future Fergusons: End the War on...


Notable new follow-ups to recent ugly executions in Arizona and Ohio

Posted on August 19, 2014
Coincidentally, this week has brought two distinct follow-up article examining the backstories that may have contributed to two distinct ugly executions in Arizona and Ohio. The Arizona follow-up story comes via this new New York Times article headlined "Arizona Loose...


"An Empirical Evaluation of the Connecticut Death Penalty System Since 1973: Are There Unlawful Racial, Gender, and Geographic Disparities?"

Posted on August 19, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article recently posted on SSRN and authored by John J. Donohue III. Here is the abstract: This article analyzes the 205 death-eligible murders leading to homicide convictions in...


Washington appeals court strikes down sign-holding shaming sanction as statutorily unauthorized

Posted on August 19, 2014
Regular readers know I am always intrigued by novel punishments, especially in the form of shaming sanctions. Consequently, I was pleased when a helpful reader altered me to a notable new Washington appellate court opinion striking down a notable shaming...


Intriguing account of how Pittsburgh police undermined local crime-fighting efforts

Posted on August 18, 2014
This new article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provide a disconcerting account of how local police can undermine efforts to reduce local crime. The piece is headlined "Professor: Lack of cooperation marred success of Pittsburgh crime-fighting initiative," and here are excerpts:...


More evidence of the poor funtioning of California's crime-and-punishment policies and practices

Posted on August 18, 2014
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times published this lengthy and disconcerting article spotlighting yet another aspect of the mess that is California's current sentencing and corrections system. The piece is headlined "Early jail releases have surged since California's prison...


"Adverse childhood events: Incarceration of household members and health-related quality of life in adulthood"

Posted on August 17, 2014
Via The Crime Report, I came across this new report in the August 2014 issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. The piece has the title that is the title of this post, and here...


Noting a legal mess with sex offender registries that is not ok in OK

Posted on August 17, 2014
This local article, headlined "Confusion Continues Over Sex Offender Registry In Oklahoma," spotlights some of the legal challenges that can arise when a jurisdiction keeps tinkering with its sex offender registration laws. Here are excerpts: After years of revisions laws...


Recent highlights from Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

Posted on August 16, 2014
It has been a few weeks since I did a round-up of recent posts at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform, so here goes: Former Florida Gov Jeb Bush conflicted about states' rights and federal pot prohibition "NFL Seeks Right Answer...


Texas Gov Rick Perry facing two felony charges carrying significant mandatory minimum prison terms

Posted on August 16, 2014
I know very little about Texas criminal laws and procedures, and I know even less about the political and legal in-fighting that appears to have resulted in yesterday's remarkable indictment of Texas Gov Rick Perry on two state felony charges....


More effective Slate coverage of extremes of (and problems with) sex offender registries

Posted on August 15, 2014
As noted in this prior post, this week Slate has published a series of commentaries spotlighting areas in which sex offender registries have become extreme and problematic. All four pieces in the series are now available, and here are the...


"Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal"

Posted on August 15, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new article by Rachel Barkow and Mark Osler. Because I admire and respect the work of both these folks so much, I am going to make sure...


Senator Rand Paul blames ugliness of Ferguson on the ugliness of big CJ government

Posted on August 15, 2014
Senator Rand Paul, who has made notable efforts to push notable reforms of the federal criminal justice system, has penned this provocative Time op-ed about the sad and ugly situation that has unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of...


"How Prisoners? Rights Lawyers are Preserving the Role of the Courts"

Posted on August 14, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article on SSRN authored by Margo Schlanger. Here is the abstract: This article is part of the University of Miami ?Leading from Below? Symposium. It canvasses prisoners? lawyers...


US Sentencing Commission finalizes its policy priorities for coming year

Posted on August 14, 2014
As detailed in this official press release, the "United States Sentencing Commission today unanimously approved its list of priorities for the coming year, including consideration of federal sentences for economic crimes and continued work on addressing concerns with mandatory minimum...


Eighth Circuit reverses 20-month sentence for police abuse and perjury as substantively unreasonable

Posted on August 14, 2014
In the post-Booker sentencing world, reversal of sentences on appeal for being substantively unreasonable are quite rare. But this week has brought two such reversal: as noted in this prior post, an Eleventh Circuit panel on Tuesday declared a probation...


Noting the push for reforming the fraud federal sentencing guidelines

Posted on August 13, 2014
This lengthy new AP article, headlined "Sentencing Changes Sought for Business Crimes," discusses the on-going push to reform the federal sentencing guidelines for fraud offenses. Here are excerpts: The federal panel that sets sentencing policy eased penalties this year for...


"How Prisoners? Rights Lawyers are Preserving the Role of the Courts"

Posted on August 13, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article on SSRN authored by Margo Schlanger. Here is the abstract: This article is part of the University of Miami ?Leading from Below? Symposium. It canvasses prisoners? lawyers...


Alabama federal judge has cases reassigned after his arrest for wife-beating

Posted on August 13, 2014
As reported in this local article, the "11th Circuit Court of Appeals has reassigned cases pending before U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, following the judge's arrest in Georgia Sunday on charges of misdemeanor battery." Here is more on the fallout....


"Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far"

Posted on August 12, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Slate commentary authored by Matt Mellema, Chanakya Sethi, and Jane Shim which appears to be the first in a series. Here are excerpts: [The] Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against...


Is preventing ex-prisoners from being homeless the key to preventing recidivism?

Posted on August 12, 2014
The question in the title of this post comes from my take-away from this notable article discussing a recent reentry initiative in Washington state. The article is headlined "Housing First? Helps Keep Ex-Inmates Off the Streets (and Out of Prison),"....


Eleventh Circuit finds probation sentence for public corruption substantively unreasonable

Posted on August 12, 2014
All federal sentencing fans and white-collar practitioners will want to be sure to check out a lengthy opinion today from the Eleventh Circuit in US v. Hayes, No. 11-13678 (11th Cir. Aug 12, 2014) (available here). This start to the...


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