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January 20, 2014

Some past (and present) MLK-inspired perspectives on sentencing

As perhaps is already clear from our first full week of discussion, issues of race and class are necessarily important concerns when we consider the law, policy and practices of modern sentencing systems.  In part because of that reality, I have often through the years emphasized a number of MLK-inspired themes on my main sentencing blog, and here are some links to some of my favorite past MLK Day posts (as well as the one I did today):

January 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Race and gender issues | Permalink


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Looking back on Chapter Two, it is interesting to see how race and class (and gender) have played such a huge role over the years.

For example, on page 104 there is an excerpt from the Code of Hammurabi. Section 8 says that stealing an ox or other animal will result in the man paying 30 times the price of the animal. However, if he is poor, he will only pay 10 times the price. But, (and this is the kicker), if the thief can't pay, he shall be put to death. This shows how class of the OFFENDER effects punishment.

Additionally, if a man has caused the loss of a "gentlemen's" eye, his eye will be put out as well. But if a man causes a poor man to lose his eye, he only needs to pay one mina of silver. This shows how the class of the VICTIM effects punishment.

Finally, (if I'm reading this correctly) if someone strikes a "gentleman's" daughter and she dies, the offender must put to death their own daughter. But if the woman who he strikes and kills is instead the daughter of a poor man, he need only pay half a mina of silver. This again shows how class effects decisions, but also shows how sometimes sentences drastically effect individuals who are not even directly involved. In this example, the daughter of the offender may be put to death simply because her father killed someone else. While I do not think that we do that today, the sentences given to offenders still have some great impacts on other peoples' lives.

Posted by: Katie W. | Jan 21, 2014 9:16:51 PM

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