October 28, 2016
Two timely new commentaries in light of our Graham-based discussions of "legal" adulthood
I have been quite amused to see these two headlines on two notable commentaries published since our last class:
The first of these articles starts this way:
Consider three young people: An 18-year-old who can vote, but can’t legally buy a beer; a 21-year-old who can drink, but is charged extra to rent a car; and a 25-year-old who can rent a car at the typical rate, but remains eligible for his parents’ health insurance.
Which one is an adult? All of them? None of them? Some of them? Or does it depend on the individual?
These questions are newly salient in the criminal justice system.
October 24, 2016
The full opinions in Graham and Miller....
are worth checking out if you are eager to think deeply about the future of Eighth Amendment limitations on extreme prison sentences. And here are links to the original SCOTUS slip opinions:
Graham v. Florida (2010) (all 84-fun-loving-PDF-pages)
Miller v. Alabama (2012) (all 62-fun-loving-PDF-pages)
October 22, 2016
Eastern State Penitentiary and other (in)famous US prisons past and present
This post is to facilitate discussion an reflection on prison history in the United States, building on the video about Eastern State Penitentiary and more generally about the reality that time in jail or prisons is now something of a modern default sentencing "output." If you are interested in learning more about Eastern State, check out this terrific website. Notably, in recent years Eastern State Penitentiary has been trying to incorporate more modern art and education into its tours; it recently has been working on an ambitious exhibit 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 are to be found within in the history, as documented by this book entitled "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons." That book 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.
October 20, 2016
Some more "who sentences" stories from my main blog, now focused on non-capital sentencing
In this post earlier this month, I flagged a number of "who sentences" stories relating to the death penalty on my Sentencing Law & Policy blog. Here is now a similar round up of some recent non-capital sentencing stories and commentaries that provide some more "who" perspectives:
October 17, 2016
Lies, damn lies and federal prison and commutations statistics
As I mentioned in class, as we turn our attention more to the history and modern realities of non-capital sentencing and especially to the history and modern realities of incarceration, having a basic understanding of a lot of number becomes important. The title of this post is designed to make sure, before you dive too much into these data, that you keep in mind perhaps the most famous quote about statistics. Once you have that quote in mind, consider some of the data and their sources.
The latest detailed breakdown of the federal prison population comes from this terrific "Quick Facts" document released this month by the US Sentencing Commission titled "Federal Offenders in Prison – March 2016." Here are just some of the data therein that caught my eye:
• A large majority of offenders in the federal prison population are male (93.3%).
• Hispanic offenders make up the largest group of the federal prison population(35.2%), followed by Black offenders (34.4%), White offenders (27.0%), and Other Races (3.5%).
• More than three-quarters (77.9%) of these offenders are United States citizens.
• The majority of offenders pleaded guilty (88.5%).
• Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) of all offenders serving a sentence for a federal conviction possessed a firearm or other weapon in connection with their offenses.
• Half of all offenders (50.2%) in the federal prison population were sentenced to more than ten years in prison, while 5.2% were sentenced to 30 years or longer, and 2.7% were sentenced to life in prison.
• Approximately 17,000 offenders (9.9% of all incarcerated offenders) have served more than 10 years in prison.
• More than half (56.8%) of offenders in the federal prison population were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty.
The data in the USSC report is already significantly dated because it analyzed a federal prison population of 195,676 "offenders in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on March 27, 2016." But, just a little more than six months later according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons latest inmate population report, it is now only in charge of 191,322 total federal inmates. In other words, in just the last 6 months alone, there has been more than a 2% decline in the overall federal prison population!
Speaking of changes over time in the population levels in the Federal Bureau of Prison, check out this BOP year-by-year report of the past federal prison population in modern times, which includes these numbers:
Fiscal Year BOP Population
In other words, in just the last 20 years up to 2013 (12 of which had a Democrat in charge in the Oval Office and his appointees running the US Department of justice), there was 250% increase in the overall federal prison population!
As you may now realize, the number of federal prisoners for fiscal year 2013 was the year with the highest ever federal prison population (it was also, of course, the first year of Prez Obama's second term in office and the fifth year of the US Department of Justice being run by former US Attorney General Eric Holder).
Also, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2013, this webpage from the Office of the Pardon Attorney reports that Prez Obama had received well over 8,000 federal commutation petitions and had granted a grand total of 1 commutation. (If you are running the numbers, this means that as of the end of 2013, Prez Obama had granted only about .01% of commutation petitions received from federal prisoners.)
Of course, Prez Obama has picked up the pace on commutation grants: as this White House website highlights, by having now granted a total of 774 commutations, Prez Obama "has granted commutations to more prisoners than the past 11 presidents combined." But his actions here ought to be put in some other statistical context, as does this webpage from the Office of Pardon Attorney, which reports that Prez Obama has received 29,078 commutation petitions during his time an office. So, by having now granted 774 commutations from among the 29,078 commutation petitions received, Prez Obama has now upped his granted rate to about 2.5% of all commutation petitions received from federal prisoners.
As always, a great way for students to earn extra credit for the class would be to mine these numbers for further insights and data points worthy of highlighting in the comments to the blog (or in class). And any student who can find good data on the race/gender of the 774 persons to have received commutations from Prez Obama and compares them to the general federal prison population will be sure to receive extra, extra, extra credit.
October 12, 2016
How some Framers thought about "gradation of punishments" (and proposed sentencing guidelines) in a world before "modern" prisons
One of my all-time favorite documents in the history of US sentencing law and policy is this document authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1778 under the title "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments in Cases Heretofore Capital." I recommend a read of the entire document (as well as this historical discussion of its backstory and its rejection by one vote). Here I have reprinted the document's preamble and provisions proposing a range of different forms of punishment, all of which seem especially interesting as we move from a discussion of the modern death penalty to other forms of modern punishment [I HAVE THROWN IN A FEW EDITORIAL COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS AND BOLD FOR ENHANCED READING]:
[STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND PROPORTIONALITY:] Whereas it frequently happens that wicked and dissolute men resigning themselves to the dominion of inordinate passions, commit violations on the lives, liberties and property of others, and, the secure enjoyment of these having principally induced men to enter into society, government would be defective in it's principal purpose were it not to restrain such criminal acts, by inflicting due punishments on those who perpetrate them; but it appears at the same time equally deducible from the purposes of society that a member thereof, committing an inferior injury, does not wholy forfiet the protection of his fellow citizens, but, after suffering a punishment in proportion to his offence is entitled to their protection from all greater pain, so that it becomes a duty in the legislature to arrange in a proper scale the crimes which it may be necessary for them to repress, and to adjust thereto a corresponding gradation of punishments.
[STATEMENT ABOUT THEORY OF PUNISHMENT:] And whereas the reformation of offenders, tho' an object worthy the attention of the laws, is not effected at all by capital punishments, which exterminate instead of reforming, and should be the last melancholy resource against those whose existence is become inconsistent with the safety of their fellow citizens, which also weaken the state by cutting off so many who, if reformed, might be restored sound members to society, who, even under a course of correction, might be rendered useful in various labors for the public, and would be living and long continued spectacles to deter others from committing the like offences.
And forasmuch the experience of all ages and countries hath shewn that cruel and sanguinary laws defeat their own purpose by engaging the benevolence of mankind to withold prosecutions, to smother testimony, or to listen to it with bias, when, if the punishment were only proportioned to the injury, men would feel it their inclination as well as their duty to see the laws observed.
For rendering crimes and punishments therefore more proportionate to each other: Be it enacted by the General assembly that no crime shall be henceforth punished by deprivation of life or limb except those hereinafter ordained to be so punished....
[PUNISHMENT FOR MOST SERIOUS CRIMES:] If any person commit Petty treason, or a husband murder his wife, a parent his child, or a child his parent, he shall suffer death by hanging, and his body be delivered to Anatomists to be dissected.
Whosoever shall commit murder in any other way shall suffer death by hanging.
And in all cases of Petty treason and murder one half of the lands and goods of the offender shall be forfieted to the next of kin to the person killed, and the other half descend and go to his own representatives. Save only where one shall slay the Challenger in at duel, in which case no part of his lands or goods shall be forfieted to the kindred of the party slain, but instead thereof a moiety shall go to the Commonwealth....
[PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER HOMICIDES:] Whosoever shall be guilty of Manslaughter, shall for the first offence, be condemned to hard labor for seven years, in the public works, shall forfiet one half of his lands and goods to the next of kin to the person slain; the other half to be sequestered during such term, in the hands and to the use of the Commonwealth, allowing a reasonable part of the profits for the support of his family. The second offence shall be deemed Murder....
[PUNISHMENT FOR SEX CRIMES:] Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least....
[PUNISHMENT FOR SERIOUS ASSAULTS:] Whosoever on purpose and of malice forethought shall maim another, or shall disfigure him, by cutting out or disabling the tongue, slitting or cutting off a nose, lip or ear, branding, or otherwise, shall be maimed or disfigured in like sort: or if that cannot be for want of the same part, then as nearly as may be in some other part of at least equal value and estimation in the opinion of a jury and moreover shall forfiet one half of his lands and goods to the sufferer.
[PUNISHMENT FOR SERIOUS ECONOMIC CRIMES:] Whosoever shall counterfiet any coin current by law within this Commonwealth, or any paper bills issued in the nature of money, or of certificates of loan on the credit of this Commonwealth, or of all or any of the United States of America, or any Inspectors notes for tobacco, or shall pass any such counterfieted coin, paper bills, or notes, knowing them to be counterfiet; or, for the sake of lucre, shall diminish, case, or wash any such coin, shall be condemned to hard labor six years in the public works, and shall forfiet all his lands and goods to the Commonwealth.
Whosoever committeth Arson shall be condemned to hard labor five years in the public works, and shall make good the loss of the sufferers threefold.
If any person shall within this Commonwealth, or being a citizen thereof shall without the same, wilfully destroy, or run away with any sea-vessel or goods laden on board thereof, or plunder or pilfer any wreck, he shall be condemned to hard labor five years in the public works, and shall make good the loss of the sufferers three-fold.
Whosoever committeth Robbery shall be condemned to hard labor four years in the public works, and shall make double reparation to the persons injured.
Whatsoever act, if committed on any Mansion house, would be deemed Burglary, shall be Burglary if committed on any other house; and he who is guilty of Burglary, shall be condemned to hard labor four years in the public works, and shall make double reparation to the persons injured....
[PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER ECONOMIC CRIMES:] Grand Larceny shall be where the goods stolen are of the value of five dollars, and whosoever shall be guilty thereof shall be forthwith put in the pillory for one half hour, shall be condemned to hard labor two years in the public works, and shall make reparation to the person injured.
Petty Larceny shall be where the goods stolen are of less value than five dollars; whosoever shall be guilty thereof shall be forthwith put in the pillory for a quarter of an hour, shall be condemned to hard labor one year in the public works, and shall make reparation to the person injured....
[PUNISHMENT FOR PUBLIC DISORDER CRIMES:] All attempts to delude the people, or to abuse their understanding by exercise of the pretended arts of witchcraft, conjuration, inchantment, or sorcery or by pretended prophecies, shall be punished by ducking and whipping at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding 15. stripes....
[SPECIAL DEFENDANTS:] Slaves guilty of any offence punishable in others by labor in the public works, shall be transported to such parts in the West Indies, S. America or Africa, as the Governor shall direct, there to be continued in slavery.
October 10, 2016
Follow-up after (too little) time with the Assistant Chief Counsel for Ohio Governor John Kasich
I am sorry we did not have more time to allow Kevin Stanek, the Assistant Chief Counsel for Ohio Governor John Kasich, to complete his tales about Ohio's fulsome history with lethal injection litigation. But I trust you all got a flavor of some of the major themes I consider most important for our broader class's purposes: a whole bunch of distinctive (unexpected?) "whos" can and often will have a huge impact on whether, when and how death sentences actually get carried out in Ohio and elsewhere.
For more on that front with a continued focus on lethal injection drug acquisition and litigation, it is worth checking out the WNYC's Radiolab: More Perfect program on state efforts to acquire lethal injection drugs, which is titled "Cruel and Unusual." The 40-minute radio program covers a lot of ground in ways both familiar and unfamiliar, including a notable discussion of the political impact of the Furman ruling and its aftermath starting around the 16-minute-mark (which in turn inspired the Oklahoma legislator who came up with the medicalized three-drug lethal injection protocol).
In addition, the constitutional litigation that has gummed up the works of death penalty in Ohio over the last decade has also gummed up the work in a lot of other states. Here is an a report from my main blog about a (very red) state to Ohio's south that has been dealing with similar issues: "Detailing how litigation over lethal injection methods has shut down Mississippi's machinery of death for now a half-decade."
October 5, 2016
Game planning next week's final(?) capital punishment discussions (and requests for expressions of any continued DP interest)
As I surmise you could tell from the last few classes, I am not at all troubled that our discussions of how Teddy K.'s capital case might play out in states like Florida and Texas has gone on longer than I had initially planned. I am hopeful you were able to get a real feel from this week's two classes concerning the various important structural and practical realities of modern death penalty decision-making that have resulted from the Supreme Court's modern Eighth Amendment "guided discretion" jurisprudence.
With the Teddy K. hypo and some of its lessons now covered, I want to update/clarify our plans and my expectations for next week's classes and beyond:
Monday, Oct 10: Guest presentation/discussion with Kevin Stanek, Assistant Chief Counsel for Ohio Governor John Kasich (and OSU Moritz College of Law Class of 2013). There is no need to prepare anything formal this class, but this Dispatch article and this part of a Wikipedia entry provides a quick overview of the Ohio execution administration issues that ACC Stanek will likely be discussing. (And for a lighter (and not-so-tasteful) look at these issues, check out this satire video from The Onion, "Ohio Replaces Lethal Injection With Humane New Head-Ripping-Off Machine.")
Tuesday, Oct 11: We will finally get to discussing McClesky v. Kemp (paying extra special attention to the final few paragraphs of the majority opinion and then debating a possible Ohio Racial and Gender Justice Act)
Wednesday, Oct 12: Wrap up DP discussions and start transition to LWOP/non-capital sentencing challenges by identifying enduring lessons ....
UNLESS YOU REPORT IN THE COMMENTS OR ELSEWHERE ABOUT ADDITIONAL CAPITAL PUNISHMENT ISSUES YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE US COVER IN CLASS. If nobody raises any addition death-penalty issues in the comments or in other ways with me, I will assume that everyone has already had more than their fill of death penalty discussions and thus will feel all that much more confident moving on to discussions of non-capital sentencing realities ASAP.
For those students hoping and eager for us to move on beyond our death penalty discussions, please feel free to get started on our first set of prison readings, in the form of:
- All of Chapter 7, paying particular attention to pp. 549-558, 570-581 and 595-623 (especially Graham v. Florida)
- A bit of Chapter 5, pp. 401-415 (especially Miller v. Alabama)
UPDATE: ACC Stanek suggested that everyone read this DC Circuit case, Cook v. FDA, to get a flavor of some of the challenges states face when trying to acquire the drugs needed to conduct a lethal injection.
October 4, 2016
Lots of significant new "who sentences" stories surrounding the death penalty
Especially when we go a long time between classes, I trust students realize that following developments at my main blog is a good way to maintain the "low stress, high learning" experience. And especially in the last few days, we have had a lot of (educational?) "who sentences" stories relating to the death penalty. Here are links to just some of these stories: