Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Some background reading on (various forms of) castration as a punishment for sex offenders

Since I keep managing to end class with lingering questions about castration as a punishment for sex offenses, I figured I would use this blog space to highlight some existing literature on this topic.  Perhaps my main goal here is to be sure I do not leave the impression that I am the only one who thinks (too much?) about the potential pros and cons of castration as a punishment for sex offenders:

  • A 2005 peer-reviewed journal article, titled  "The Impact of Surgical Castration on Sexual Recidivism Risk Among Sexually Violent Predatory Offenders"

  • A 2006 press article, headlined "Some Sex Offenders Opt for Castration"

  • A 2009 student note making the case for chemical castration, titled "Chemical Castration for Child Predators: Practical, Effective, and Constitutional"

  • A 2010 press article, titled "California law mandates chemical castration of certain offenders"

  • A 2013 student note arguing against chemical castration, titled "'Off with His __': Analyzing the Sex Disparity in Chemical Castration Sentences"
  • A 2014 press article from the UK, titled "Should We Be Castrating Sex Offenders?", interviewing an expert involved in UK "voluntary" program "to chemically castrate rapists, paedophiles and other sex offenders."

I do not expect anyone to read all these materials (or even any of them if this topic creeps you out), but perhaps one or more of you might find this topic interesting for a future mini-paper or final paper. And, speaking of topics of interest for mini/final papers, I promise on Monday to start the class by going around the room and having folks describe a sentencing/punishment topic of personal interest.  Once we have that discussion, we will then jump hard into the Williams case.

August 24, 2016 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First week assignments, electronic copies of course documents, and links for completing questionnaire

I have posted on the Moritz official website our first assignments, but I figured it would be useful to repost the details here, while also providing electronic copies of the basic course documents.  So....

In preparation for our first week of classes starting Monday, August 22, 2016 you should:

1.  Get a copy of the THIRD edition of the casebook for the course.

2.  Download the questionnaire and fill it out before our first class.  (In addition to being posted here, the questionnaire and course description will be available in hard-copy in front of my office, Room 313.)

3.  Find/research on your own a real sentencing issue, case or story that is of significant interest to you, and come to our first week of classes prepared to explain this issue, case or story and why it is of significant interest to you. 

Download 2016 Course description

Download 2016 Fall pre Class Questionnaire

 

You will discover that a few of the questions in the questionnaire call for a bit of on-line research, and here are some links to help in this arena:

 

August 18, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Welcome yet again to another reboot of this blog for another semester of Sentencing Law at the Moritz College of Law

This is now the FIFTH re-launch of this blogging adventure!!

This blog started nearly 10 years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law.  This first post in this space explained, way back then, that "I hope[d] that both the contents and very construct of this blog will inspire a new type of engagement with the death penalty and with on-line media for students."  Sure enough, the blog proved successful during that semester (which was when this guy was still US Prez and when this TV show was still the most popular).

I closed this blog down not long after that first death penalty course ended, but thereafter discovered the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still was generating some web traffic and that many posts remained timely (though a whole bunch of old web links are now very dead).  So, as I geared up for teaching Criminal Punishment & Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law and again back at the Moritz College of Law in Fall 2011 and Spring 2014, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build in this space on some materials covered before.  In all of these classes, I have been pleased with how this blog helped promote student engagement with on-line media and materials. (For the record, OSU students always engaged with the blog much more and better than Fordham students.)

Now, circa August 2016, I am gearing up to teach Sentencing Law again at the Moritz College of Law.  And because a lot of new exciting sentencing developments seem likely in the weeks and months ahead, I am hopeful that this space will stay active as I flag current events for class discussion.  In addition, I use this blog (rather than TWEN) as convenient place to post information about class activities and plans and assignments, and so you can/should be on the look out for class materials posting in this space soon.

 

WELCOME!

 

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August 10, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Final sets of mini-papers for review and reactions

Well timed for the middle of the first week of final is the last set of student mini-papers for student review:

Download Sentencing Reform

Download Sex Crimes_Offenders

Download War on Drugs

Remember that if you are looking for a great way to earn some final extra credit, say smart things about one or more of these mini-papers in the comments.

 

May 5, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Still more sets of mini-papers for review and reactions

As promised (and threatened), I am now continuing to post collections of mini-papers produced by students throughout the semester.  Here are three more of the collections:

Download Marijuana Reform

Download Juries

Download Drunk driving

 

April 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

A couple more sets of mini-papers for review and reactions

As promised, I will be posting throughout this week and next the collections of mini-papers produced by students throughout the semester.  Here are two more of the collections to go along with the death penalty collection posted previously:

Download The Prison Experience

Download Child Pornography Sentencing

 

April 24, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The great opportunity (and great joy) of semester review via mini-papers

Thanks to the extraordinary help of my wonderful office assistant Allyson, I now have now finally assembled more than 60 of the mini-papers submitted over the last two months into nine subject-specific collections (in pdf form) for posting here and collective review.  Huzzah!

Though all the mini-papers are a whole lot to read in one sitting (running 120+ pages), I am hopeful the subject-specific organization will enable students to review topics of particular interest in smaller chunks.  And, as I continue to re-read all the mini-papers, I find that they serve as an interesting and effective review of much of what we formally covered in class through the semester. 

I will be posting these collections in a number of separate posts (to perhaps facilitate distinct comments concerning different collections), and I will start with the big topic of the death penalty that kept us especially busy the first half of the semester:

Download Death Penalty (pdf collection runs 31 pages)

April 21, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

If you are curious about federal child porn sentencing...

here is a link to the 400+ page report that the US Sentencing Commission published on the topic in December 2012.  The report's executive summary is only about a couple dozen pages, can be accessed at this link, and here are some interesting excerpts:

[S]entencing data indicate that a growing number of courts believe that the current sentencing scheme in non-production offenses is overly severe for some offenders.  As the Supreme Court has observed, the Commission’s obligation to collect and examine sentencing data directly relates to its statutory duty to consider whether the guidelines are in need of revision in light of feedback from judges as reflected in their sentencing decisions.

[A]s a result of recent changes in the computer and Internet technologies that typical non-production offenders use, the existing sentencing scheme in non-production cases no longer adequately distinguishes among offenders based on their degrees of culpability.  Non-production child pornography offenses have become almost exclusively Internet-enabled crimes; the typical offender today uses modern Internet-based technologies such as peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file-sharing programs that were just emerging only a decade ago and that now facilitate large collections of child pornography.  The typical offender’s collection not only has grown in volume but also contains a wide variety of graphic sexual images (including images of very young victims), which are now readily available on the Internet.  As a result, four of the of six sentencing enhancements in §2G2.2 — those relating to computer usage and the type and volume of images possessed by offenders, which together account for 13 offense levels — now apply to most offenders and, thus, fail to differentiate among offenders in terms of their culpability.  These enhancements originally were promulgated in an earlier technological era, when such factors better served to distinguish among offenders.15 Indeed, most of the enhancements in §2G2.2, in their current or antecedent versions, were promulgated when the typical offender obtained child pornography in printed form in the mail....

[M]ost stakeholders in the federal criminal justice system consider the nonproduction child pornography sentencing scheme to be seriously outmoded.  Those stakeholders, including sentencing courts, increasingly feel that they “are left without a meaningful baseline from which they can apply sentencing principles” in non-production cases....

The Commission concludes that the non-production child pornography sentencing scheme should be revised to account for recent technological changes in offense conduct and emerging social science research about offenders’ behaviors and histories, and also to better promote the purposes of punishment by accounting for the variations in offenders’ culpability and sexual dangerousness.

In addition, you might find intriguing and informative the lengthy discussion of child porn sentencing in the split Third Circuit panel decision in United States v. David Grober (where the majority, inter alia, faults the district court for allowing me to testify at the sentencing hearing).

April 15, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Basic finals information (and a place for any questions or concerns)

As I mentioned in class, the final paper for this class (and the final take-home exam which is available as an alternative to completing a final paper) is due at close of business on the last day of the exam period.  According to the Registrar's website, the final exam day is May 14, 2015.  (Note that, because this is truly the last day, I cannot readily give any kind of extension, especially to anyone supposed to graduate the next day.)

If you are taking the take-home final, I am certain it will be available no later than April 30 (and perhaps sooner), and you have the entire exam period to complete it.  In case you are wondering about the final's format, here are the general instructions I typically have for take-home finals in this class:

Typical Berman Take-Home General Instructions

1. To complete this exam you must answer at least 3 of the 4 questions.

2. As an open-book exam, you may refer to any (non-human) sources, but your answers must be prepared independently, without discussion or assistance from others.

3. Each question has a strict [1500 or 2000 or question-specific] word limit.  These are limits, not goals. Great answers are possible in fewer words.  Aided by your computer’s word count feature, please note the total number of words at the end of each of your answers.

4. You are not required to use sources other than class materials.  You are not precluded from conducting outside research, though extra time may be best invested in reviewing course materials and revising your answers to ensure they are clear and concise.

I welcome any question or concerns about any of this expressed in class or in the (now working) comment section here.  Remember my mantra: low-stress, high-learning.

April 14, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Final weeks to focus on purposes, offense, offender, sentencing and post-sentencing for sex offenders

A number of stories I have recently covered on my blog leads me to conclude we would usefully bring our semester to an informative and challenging close by giving special attention to the uniquely dynamic purposes, offense/offender, sentencing/post-sentencing issues raised by an array of sex offenses and offenders.  Though I will assign some formal readings from our casebook on these topics on Tuesday, I will kick off this final segment of the course by urging everyone to cruise through the Sex Offender Sentencing archive on my main blog looking for stories they find especially interesting and thus worthy of in-class discussion.

To highlight how dynamic and challenging sex offender sentencing issues can be, consider these posts concerning notable sex offender sentencing rulings and stories making headlines just in the past few weeks and months:

Distinct goals/purposes issues:

 

 Distinct offense considerations:

 

Distinct offender considerations:

 

Distinct post-sentencing consequences and concerns:

I would be especially grateful if student come to class on Tuesday having reviewed many of these linked stories and with an opinion about which aspect(s) of sex offender sentencing they would like us to focus particularly upon in the final weeks of class.

April 12, 2015 in Class activities, Offense Conduct | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Understand the terms of USSC debate over the fraud guidelines

As mentioned in class on Wednesday, and as detailed in this official notice, the US Sentencing Commission has a public meeting scheduled for April 9, 2015, at 1:00 pm (which is to be live-streamed here). The big agenda item of note for the meeting is the "Vote to Promulgate Proposed Amendments," and the most consequential amendments being considered concerns proposals to tweak § 2B1.1, the key guideline for fraud cases and many other white-collar offenses.  

I doubt the actual USSC meeting will be a must-see event, though I still urge you to tune in. But I have a must-read for anyone interested in white-collar federal sentencing: this fantastic Jurist commentary by Prof Randall Eliason titled "The DOJ Opposition to the Proposed Sentencing Guideline Amendments: Fighting the Wrong Battles in Fraud Cases."

April 9, 2015 in Offense Conduct, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two projects for a week with possibly just one class

Much to my chagrin, I fear this week our class will only be able to meet on Wednesday (4/8), and I fear that much of that class will involve going over current events and making sure the last few weeks of class are productive.  To that end, I have two potential projects for students to work on/think about which (1) could be the basis for additional mini-papers OR (2) the basis for a final paper OR (3) the answer to one of the question(s) likely to show up on the take home final.  Here are the basics, with more explanation to come during Wednesday's class:

Possible paper/project #1.  After the drug war: keys terms for the treaty (or reparations, or a Marshall Plan, or a truth and reconciliation commission or....)? 

As we have discussed in class, the so-called "war on drugs" has played a huge role in criminal justice developments over the last 40 years, and it has play an important role in debates over modern sentencing reform and mass incarceration. Now that there is a growing consensus that the harshest sentencing aspects of the drug war need to be reformed (and a remarkable move toward reform of marijuana and other criminal laws), a growing question is what the essential elements and terms of the post-drug-war sentencing and corrections system. Should past marijuana (and other drug) convictions be expunged? Should some kind of formal reparations be a critical part of modern reforms? And who --- legislatures, sentencing commissions, judges, executive officials --- should be principally charged with designing the terms of the "post-drug-war treaty"?

Possible paper/project #2.  Drafting new formal federal guidelines for the consideration of (one, a few, many?) offender characteristics.

In this (relatively short) law review article, a former Chair of the US Sentencing Commission criticized the federal sentencing guidelines for having too often and for too long declared offender characteristics to be "prohibited or discouraged factors" because of a fear that these factors could too readily lead "courts to issue different sentences to defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct." He suggested factors like "past drug dependence" and "positive response under pretrial supervision" ought to be the basis for new formal "guidelines that encourage consideration of those characteristics where appropriate."  Do you agree that new guidelines would be fitting for these (or other) offender characteristics, and what might these guidelines look like?

April 6, 2015 in Class activities, Who decides, Working on white papers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Working text of Amended RID bill for reducing drunk driving crimes and harms

As you should recall, we ended class on Thursday with a working draft proposal for new drunk-driving legislation.  Here is what has made it through our drafting committee so far:

First Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of zero to five years max

Second Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of six month to seven years max

Third (or Greater) Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of two years to ten years max

In addition, a sentencing judge should (must?) give the minimum term for any DUI offense if and only when the defendant's BAC was .10% or lower and no tangible harm result from the offense.  A sentencing judge should (must?) impose a sentence above the minimum if the defendant's BAC was above .10% or tangible harm resulted from the offense.

We could (and perhaps should) continue to discuss and debate other offense-related provisions to incorporate into this sentenceing --- e.g., we might provide more specific guidance/mandates concerning what other BAC levels or types of harms should/must result in a certain amount of jail time.  But, in order to reduce the risk of potential unwarranted disparity, I think it may be even more important that we consider whether and how to provide some offender-related instructions to judges for the exercise of their sentencing discretion in this setting.  And to get the discussion started, here are some proposals for consideration:

Proposal 1.  A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable minimum term if and when the defendant has no criminal history, has pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility and shown remorse, and has demonstrated a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.

Proposal 2.  A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable maximum term if and when the defendant has a significant criminal history, has refused to accept responsibility and shown remorse, and has failed to demonstrate a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.

(Contrary) Proposal 3.  A judge generally should (must?) not in exercising his sentencing discretion consider in any way a defendant's criminal history, whether he has shown any remorse, or whether any substance abuse or personal problems may have contributed to the offense. 

As these proposals are written, it is possible (but not essential) to favor both Proposal 1 and Proposal 2.  But Proposal 3 is intended to be directly contrary to the Proposal 1 and my goal here is to explore whether and how you favor (or oppose) the consideration of some common offender-related sentencing factors.

I would encourage students to use the comments to discuss any part of this on-going debate over our new sentencing bill, and folks should feel especially free to propose any additional amendments and modifications to the bill.  We will build on what we have done to date in our class discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday.

March 28, 2015 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Offense Conduct, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Intriguing federal fraud sentencing raising distinct offense and offender issues

As mentioned in class, this week we will continue to unpack the challenging question of exactly what are the essential aspects of the "offense" to be assessed and punished at sentencing, and next week we will focus on whether there are any essential aspects of the "offender" that must (or must not) be assessed and punished at sentencing.  With both topics in mind, a story of an upcoming federal fraud sentence blogged at SL&P struck me as especially interesting: You be the judge: what federal sentence for modern sheriff playing Robin Hood?.

 

Here are the basics of the offense based on press accounts:

Charge(s) of conviction: federal mail fraud, carrying a statutory range of 0 to 20 years in prison

Real conduct: "created hundreds of fake police reports [over and 18 month period] for a friend who ran a credit repair business so people could claim their identities were stolen and get out of credit."   Main victim seems to be the credit company Equifax, and there is not tangible evidence the offender received any money for his fraudulent behavior (but his friend in the credit repair business made thousands of dollars from the scheme and may have paid the offender cash for his assistance).

 

Here are the basics of the offender based on press accounts:

Characteristics at time of 2012-13 crime: Male, heavy-set, 37 years-old, sheriff of southern county.

Background: "no criminal record, ... has suffered from depression and anxiety the past four years [and] has migraines, high blood pressure and insomnia."   The now-former sheriff "was raised in a broken home, saw his mother abused by a boyfriend and left at age 17 to relieve her of financial burden [while they] resided in a poverty-stricken area."  The offender joined the county "in 1997, two years after graduating high school and rose to chief deputy, becoming sheriff in April 2010."

 

Today and for the next few classes, we will talk about offense and offender sentencing issues using this real case (rather than the fake Rob Anon case) as a focal point.  Consider and be prepared to discuss whether and how you think sentencing law could and should require (or preclude) consideration some of the facts listed above at sentencing.  Also, consider whether there are any additional facts about the offense or the offender you would like to know before sentencing.

March 25, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

National and Ohio drunk driving harms data for sentencing exercise

There are lots of sites worth checking out concerning the scourge of drunk driving, and this webpage from The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has lots of helpful links to lots of helpful data.  For example,this page has a really nice simple chart highlight that drunk driving death nationally in recent years have been around 10,000 per year, which is about 1/3 less than the yearly average a decade ago.  This decline in deaths arguably proves that tougher criminal laws work as this decline correlates with more states adopting .08% BAC as the legal limit AND with more states requiring ignition locks as punishment for DUI offenses.

But "only" 10,000 DUI deaths each year still means that, on average, more than 25 persons are killed by a drunk driver every single day in the USThis website with official Ohio highway stats reveals that Ohio has averaged more than 400 drunk driving deaths per year (meaning more than one per day).  As I mentioned in class, these number are only slightly lower than the total number of deaths from intentional homicide: roughly, the US has averaged about 14,000 murders and Ohio has averaged around 500 murders per year in recent years.  

Ohio's current penalties for drunk driving (called OVI) are effectively outlined on this webpage, and  Senator Madd, the new head of the Judiciary Committee, made reducing drunk driving deaths and injuries a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.  He also knows that, as explained on this MADD webpage, roughly "one-third of the drunk driving problem – arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries – comes from repeat offenders.  At any given point we potentially share the roads with 2 million people with three or more drunk driving offenses.  Taking away their licenses isn’t enough; 50-75% of them drive anyway." 

Senator Madd is eager to work with any and everyone on legislation to make Ohio's roads and all its citizens safer.  He sees some potential merit in both the RID and TOUGH bills that have been proposed, but he is eager to get some additional input from fellow legislators about the best ways to move forward on these fronts.

March 24, 2015 in Class activities, Data on sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reminders and updates ... about class and sentencing cases we have been following

I hope everyone enjoyed Spring Break as much as I did and also that everyone is looking forward to an exciting final month of our sentencing class.  This post provides a couple of reminders about on-going activities as well as some updates that might be of interest as we close out March sentencing madness:

1.  Everyone has a chance to submit an extra mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), ideally by 12noon on Monday, March 23.  The required prompt: "What topic(s) are you eager for us to discuss in class more before the end of the semester?"  Recall that, though all students are required to submit at least three mini-papers before the end of the semester, extra credit will be rewarded to those who submit more than the minimum.

2.  This week in class, we will focus on what should be "the offense"  for sentencing purposes.  Specifically, should only the formal specifics of the offense of conviction be considered at sentencing (the "charge offense") or should sentencing involve at least some real specifics of how the offense was actually committed (the "real offense").   As you consider this seemingly basic question, review your prior efforts sentencing Rob Anon prior to modern reforms and under the federal sentencing guidelines.   Did the charge offense or the real offense matter more to you when sentencing in the discretionary pre-guideline world?  How about in the guideline world?  And what does the US Constitution have to say about this according to the Supreme Court in the Watts case?  

3.   You may recall we talked earlier in the semester about the upcoming sentencing of former Connecticut Gov John Rowland.  Here is how that turned out:  Former Governor John Rowland Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison.  In addition, we have been following death penalty debate in Pennsylvania, and here is an interesting "who" development on that front: "Victim's wife: Keep me out of death penalty fight"

March 22, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements, Recent news and developments, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Links to all the key guidelines for modern FSG sentencing of Rob Anon

With apologies for the delay, I will now finally through this post provide some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  Here are links to the key provisions of the "official" on-line version of the now-applicable US Sentencing Guidelines as provided on the US Sentencing Commission's website:

I highly encourage class members to start working through these "basic" federal guideline sentencing materials on their own (and then use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help.  That said, if (when?) you want/need some more help, here is a link to a worksheet created by the US Sentencing Commission intended to aid in the guideline sentencing process:

As you work through this assignment, please feel free use the comments to express what it feels like to sentence in the federal system now that a whole lot of law has been brought into the process.   

Though I continue to hope I am doing a good job with my low-stress, high-learning class mantra, it is very important in my view for everyone to get through the Rob Anon guideline sentencing experience ASAP; having done so will be essential to getting the most out of our classes the rest of this month. If you have already done this exercise, do it again and/or review your work.  If you have not done it yet, please do. 

March 9, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

More evidence that the death penalty will keep pulling us back in...

To paraphrase the most memorable line from the least memorable Godfather movie, just when I thought we could be done with our discussions of the death penalty and who sentences, the media and the US Supreme Court keep pulling us back in.  Specifically, check out these recent notable posts from my main blog:

March 9, 2015 in Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pre-Monday reminder of Monday deadlines and events

Just a quick note to remind everyone that...

1.  If you are submitting a mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), it is due by 12noon on Monday, March 9.   The suggested prompt was "could/should the law consider the subjective experience of imprisonment in some way," though you are always welcome of write on any topic of interest and relevance to recent class readings/discussion/activity.

2.  Speaking of recent class readings/discussion/activity, you should be spending some time trying to figure out how to sentence Rob Anon pursuant the the federal sentencing guidelines.  Here is a first "hint" with more to come in a subsequent post: Entire 2014 Federal Sentencing Guidelines linked via USSC

3.  At noon in the Public Service Law Center is a lunch with Allen Bohnert, Moritz Class of 2006 (profiled here).  The lunch is a brown-bag affair, but I will treat for lunch for a few students who let me know ASAP that the would be interested to come with me and Allen to eat at Eddie George's after the talk. 

March 8, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seeking reflections/reactions to today's pre-reform federal sentencing exercise

We will talk on Thursday about the experience of sentencing Rob Anon under the pre-reform discretionary federal sentencing system, but I wanted to start the process of reflection on the pre-reform system with this post and a place for comments. 

Did your experience strengthen your understanding for Judge Frankel's concerns and call for reform? 

What aspects of the sentencing experience surprised or concerned you the most?

March 4, 2015 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Some more on prisons past, present and future

This post provides a space for discussion of last week's video about Eastern State Penitentiary and more generally about prisons as out modern default sentencing "output."  If you are interested in learning more about Eastern State, check out this terrific website.   Notably, in recent years ESP has been trying to incorporate more modern art and education into its tours; it is working now on an ambitious new exhibit for 2016 titled "Prisons in the Age of Mass Incarceration."

In addition, there are lots of other (in)famous prisons that tell stories about not only American crime and punishment, but also stories about America.  A number of notable Ohio-centric stories to be found within in this history, as documented by this book entitled "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons," which is summarized this way:

With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States."  The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side of the new prison, for juvenile offenders, and the penitentiary on the other, for all the more hardened and incorrigible class."  However, even as the concept was being replicated throughout the country, the staffs of the institutions were faced with the day-to-day struggle of actually making the system work.

The Ohio State Reformatory referenced in this passage is located in Mansfield, and is now an historic site.   I urge everyone to take a virtual tour via this huge photo gallery.  And if you are ever looking for some web-surfing fun, check out these additional links to some good sites about some of the United States' most (in)famous prisons:

Notably, a few years ago, students had a lot to say in the wake of watching the ESP video, and you might be interested to read these 2011 student comments about prison history. This coming week, we will be shifting back into a discussion of sentencing law and the (non-capital) sentencing process, but everyone should keep thinking about both the theory and practices of imprisonment as a form of punishment as we get into the nitty-gritty of modern sentencing doctrines.

Also, of course, everyone should be thinking not just about the past and present of prisons, but also the future.  To that end, check out this forward-looking video:

March 2, 2015 in Scope of imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Various posts on the subjective experiences of punishment from SL&P (and a timely article about prison rape)

Following up on today's class discussion (and tomorrow's video) concerning imprisonment and the subjective experiences offenders may face, here are various posts of note from the archives of Sentencing Law & Policy:

These posts are a mix of links to serious academic articles and interesting real-world cases on some topics we covered in class.

Finally, I just noticed that The Atlantic has this lengthy new article about another part of the subjective experience of imprisonment for many.  The piece is headlined "Rape in the American Prison: In 2003, Congress passed legislation to eliminate sexual assaults against inmates.  One young man’s story shows how elusive that goal remains."

February 25, 2015 in Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Some notable gubenatorial capital developments

Though I am eager to start migrating our class discussions away from capital sentencing and punishment to non-capital sentencing and punishments, the notable death penalty news keeps coming.  Specifically, check out these two recent posts from my main blog:

As always, I am eager to hear student reactions to these developments and others in the comments or elsewhere.

February 21, 2015 in Clemency, Current Affairs, Death penalty history | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Would you urge out-going Oregon Gov Kitzhaber to commute all death sentences?

The question in the title of this post is a (slightly modified) version of what I have asked here at my main blog, where I also link to commentaries urging mass commutation by two law professors and by a retired assistant director of institutions and superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Notably, back in November 2011, Gov Kitzhaber placed a moratorium on all executions in his state and his statement in support of this decision can be accessed at this link.  I wonder if you find it more or less compelling and effective than the statement made by Pennsylvania Gov Wolf a few days ago. 

February 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Speaking of "who" and the death penalty...

check out what new Pennsylvania Gov Tom Wolf did on Friday the 13th.  Turns out it was a lucky day for those on death row in the state.

Thoughts?  The Marshall Hypothesis as applied by a Governor?

February 13, 2015 in Clemency, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)