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October 24, 2020

Additional video content for "earned time" opportunities

2020-Sentencing-Workshops_for-social-and-web-1I am hopeful that all the videos of all the speakers and panels from last week's NACDL conference, Prison Brake: Rethinking the Sentencing Status Quo​, will be available on-line before too long.  In the meantime, any and all students who would like to "earn" some more class time credits should consider checking out some slightly older video content that just became available online.

Specifically, this summer, the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) co-hosted a series of workshops in collaboration with the National Association of Sentencing Commissions (NASC) and the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC).  The series brought together leaders from sentencing commissions, the judiciary, and academia.  Workshops focused on the role of sentencing commissions in advancing criminal justice reform in times of change, the impact and importance of criminal justice data, and efforts in Ohio to create a unified sentencing entry.  All of the workshops are linked on this DEPC page, and here are brief accounts of each of the three workshops with direct links to the videos (via the titles):

The Work of Sentencing Commissions in Time of Change

Recorded June 25, 2020 | In collaboration with NASC


Judge Stephen L. McIntosh, Franklin County, Ohio and member, Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission
Meredith Farrar-Owens, director, Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission
Mark H. Bergstrom, executive director, Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission
Kelly Lyn Mitchell, chair, Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission


The Power of Data: Impact on Criminal Justice Reform

Recorded July 28, 2020 | In collaboration with NASC


John Pfaff, professor of law, Fordham University
Anne Precythe, director, Missouri Department of Corrections
Michael Schmidt, executive director, Oregon Criminal Justice Commission; incoming District Attorney, Multnomah County


Creating a Felony Sentencing Database: Moving Ohio Forward

Recorded August 17, 2020 | In collaboration with OCSC


Judge Pierre Bergeron, First District Court of Appeals
Douglas A. Berman, executive director, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Associate Justice Michael Donnelly, Supreme Court of Ohio
Judge Ray Headen, Eighth District Court of Appeals
Ryan King, professor and chair, Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences
Judge Gene Zmuda, Sixth District Court of Appeals

For any of these videos, you are advised to fast-forward through my introductions and get to the array of interesting and diverse "whos" providing their distinct perspectives on these topics. And if you only have time to watch a little bit of these lengthy videos, I would especially recommend the first part of the "Power of Data" video in order to hear Professor John Pfaff rant for 10 minutes about how truly terrible our criminal justice data is across just about every metric.

And remember, if and when you spend any time watching these video or are involved other similar class-relevant activities, be sure to log your hours and loop me in.

October 24, 2020 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink


I did listen to John Pfaff comments. One item stood for me from my own experience. I served on the Grand Jury a few years ago and noticed that some crimes seemed inconsequential. Why, I thought, were they not charged with a misdemeanor and given an appearance and verdict before a municipal judge.

One case that particularly bothered me was the felony charge for a person who used a social security number that was not their own. In my mind this fellow was a father, who as an illegal immigrant, just wanted to support his family. Or maybe he was a kingpin drug smuggler who the cops long wanted to nail so they could deport him. In pre-Trump times only a felony could get you deported.

In several other cases I remember evidence of small kernels of cocaine found in the cars of black men who happened to be driving in the City of Grove City. Why did so few grams of this substance required a grand jury indictment? My suspicion was that these fellows were just driving while Black and pulled over for harassment purposes.

Several years later I had an occasion to discuss this with a federal prosecutor. What he said matched what Pfaff noted; the charged crime had no relationship to the actual crime.

My conclusion is that all the talk of reform is so much a tempest in a depot. It certainly will help a few and may reduce the prison population, but in fact the basic features of the criminal justice system will remain intact. The big picture is that this is just a big business that has as its machinery many people whose job it is to process other people to get their paycheck. I mean no insult to anyone who works in this system, but the justice system has an analogous problem to the problem of turning the oil industry green. Good luck.

However, I am an optimist and believe the key ingredient of reform is to reform the Grand Jury system back to what was intended, which is the citizen's power to block and prevent an overly prosecutorial government. No other group of people has the Constitutional power to reform the system and all that is needed is an educated Grand Jury freed from control of the prosecution. (A sixth month term with the first month taught by advocates and neutrals.)

My Grand Jury experience was traumatic. I asked too many questions which irritated my fellow jurors and frustrated their efforts to fulfill the prosecutors earlier promise that if they finished a batch of indictments they could go home early. They also clapped when the police entered the room. Truly a kangaroo court. I was brought in front of a judge and removed, accused of being bent on nullifying the law (which an originalist should defend if they were genuine practitioners.)

Posted by: Gary Josephson | Oct 27, 2020 1:51:54 AM

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