October 16, 2019

Some FIRST STEP Act basics for Friday's lunch and future use

The FIRST STEP Act, which is fully titled the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, was signed by President Donald Trump into law on December 21, 2018. Many have rightly called this law the biggest federal criminal justice reform legislation in a generation, and yet others have rightly called this law a very small modification of the federal criminal justice system. Among the good question to reflect on is whether the FIRST STEP Act is a big deal or much ado about very little.

Because lots of disparate provisions got rolled into the FIRST STEP Act, it is hard to readily summarize all its elements. The Congressional Research Service produced this intricate 20-page overview of Act, which is initially summarized this way:

The act has three major components: (1) correctional reform via the establishment of a risk and needs assessment system at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), (2) sentencing reform via changes to penalties for some federal offenses, and (3) the reauthorization of the Second Chance Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-199). The act also contains a series of other criminal justice-related provisions.

The advocacy group FAMM has this webpage about the Act, which includes these general (multi-page) summaries:

FAQ: First Step Act

FAQ: First Step Act Risk and Needs Assessment

Read a full description of the bill here

The federal Bureau of Prisons and the National Institute of Justice also have useful webpages about the FIRST STEP Act, and their pages provide a particular focus on the work these agencies are doing under the Act (aka "Who sentences").

October 16, 2019 in Class activities, Working on white papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2019

Use your free time to start reading about federal sentencing system.... UPDATE on Oct 14

Just a quick post to remind you we do not have class this Monday, but we will make up for lost time on Wednesday by jumping into our review of the federal sentencing system. So get started on the readings from the syllabus, and get excited about coming discussions about the operation of the federal sentencing guidelines!

If the FSG don't quite keep your interest while I am away, note that SCOTUS gets back in action on Monday with two notable criminal cases.  I collect some previews of the action in this post at my main blog.

 

UPDATE:  Remember that we are going to be starting our discussion of the Rob Anon sentencing exercise this week.  We will start with a focus on what it was like to sentence in the federal system before modern guideline reforms and what it is like to sentence under the modern guideline system.  It is CRITICAL that you have started working on the Rob Anon exercise and done the associated reading (e.g., Frankel and then Booker).

October 6, 2019 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2019

Second-look materials for review and (competitive?) repackaging

Many thanks to the whole class for your terrific engagement with David Singleton in today's class.  I trust you enjoyed as much as I did hearing a lot from him (and not so much from me).  And, as we discussion, the issue of "second look" sentencing mechanisms in Ohio and elsewhere is a hot topic.  Here are some more background and links to some materials I briefly referenced in class:

The newly revised sentencing provisions of the Model Penal Code includes "second look" authority through § 305.6 urging legislatures to authorize "a judicial panel or other judicial decisionmaker to hear and rule upon applications for modification of sentence from prisoners who have served 15 years of any sentence of imprisonment."  MPC § 305.6, titled "Modification of Long-Term Prison Sentences; Principles for Legislation," and its engthy commentary can bel reviewed at this link.

Inspired in part by this MPC proposal, just this past July, US Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Representative Karen Bass (D-California) introduced a federal second look bill named the Matthew Charles and William Underwood Second Look Act of 2019.   This press release discusses the essential elements of the bill and its full text can be found at this link.  The advocacy group FAMM has been a big supporter of these proposals, and it released the following materials in conjunction this the bill's introduction:

As mentioned in class, David Singleton and I are eager to bring "second look" interest and energy to Ohio in the form of a student legislative drafting competition.  I would be very grateful for comments here (or in person) about how we might run such a contest for maximum interest and impact.  Would law students be more interested in a (small) cash prize or a chance to get published and/or present their work to important people?  Any and all feedback on the basic idea of a contest or on how best to structure its particulars would be greatly appreciated.

October 2, 2019 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 21, 2019

Materials (and fun) for considering the representation of Ted Kaczynski

As I have mentioned in class, we will be exploring in coming classes how Florida, Texas and Ohio capital sentencing laws help guide jury death sentencing discretion for the Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski.  You should imagine yourself preparing for getting a jury to recommend a life sentence rather than a death sentence for Teddy K.  The essentials for preparation appear in our handout, although you also need to check out two Ohio statutory provisions via the web:

For a lot more information about "your client," here is a massive Wikipedia entry on Ted Kaczynski.  That entry has (too) many great links, though I would especially encourage checking out at least some of the Unibomber's (in)famous Manifesto, "INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE" as well as  this lengthy Time article by Stephen J. Dubner from 1999 about Teddy K. headlined "I Don't Want To Live Long.  I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison."

And if you want to have some old-school SNL fun while preparing for this discussion, these are fun to check out:

September 21, 2019 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Death eligible offenses | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2019

The full McGautha and Furman...

are worth reading in full if you find constitutional history and/or death penalty procedure really interesting (and these are great topics for final papers).

The full McGautha can be found here; reading just the majority opinion authored by Justice Harlan (which is only 1/4 of the whole thing) is encouraged, but not required, for having extra fun throughout next week's discussion.

The full Furman can be found here; reading the whole thing could take you the rest of the semester, and our handout seeks to provide strategic highlights from each of the nine(!) opinions.  As mentioned, I will ask you in class  which of the nine opinions you would be most likely to join, so you might want to consider skimming the full version of the one opinion you find most appealing from our casebook.

September 11, 2019 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2019

Readings for wrapping up "whos" and heading into the capital sentencing world

As mentioned in our last class, we will start wrapping up our formal "who" unit by reviewing the latest, greatest Supreme Court sentencing case, United States v. Haymond, 139 S. Ct. 2369 (June 26, 2019).  You are welcome to read Haymond in any form, and the full SCOTUS slip opinion can be accessed at this link.

For maximum appreciation and understanding, you should be sure to read McMillan and Blakely in our text before turning to Haymond.  I doubt we will get through all three of these cases on Wednesday after the long holiday break, but I might try.  (Students are highly encouraged to start any discussions of McMillan and Blakely and Haymond in the notes, if so inclined.)

Thereafter, we will turn to an (all-too-quick) review of capital sentencing law, procedures and practices.  As the syllabus reveals, the readings for this unit (which will keep us busy through most of the rest of September) are to be provided via handouts.  Those handouts will be provided in hard-copy in class, but I wanted to provide links here to electronic copies:

Chapter 3, Topic A: Regulation of Discretion in Capital Sentencing

Electronic Chapter 9: Race, Gender, and Class in Sentencing

I plan to cover the first 69 manuscript pages in the Chapter 3 materials linked here and the first 21 pages manuscript pages in the Chapter 9 materials linked here.  (Of course, you are always welcome to read more.)

August 29, 2019 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 03, 2018

Double checking on Mini-Paper submissions and the timelines for wrapping up

I have now finally double- and triple-checked my various files to confirm my records on how many mini-papers I believe I received from each student.  All 42 of you should be able to find you names on the spreadsheet uploaded here, and therein you will find an associated number for how many papers I have in hand from you.

Download Mini paper submissions for Spring 2018

If you see what you think is an error in my accounting, please let me know before the end of next week.

Speaking of the end of next week, please remember that you need to submit a final paper or a final exam to complete the course, and that submission needs to be no later than May 10.  (I am fearful that the Registrar is unable to prevent the exam software from demanding that exam takers submit their take home answers by May 9.  I hope that does not prove to be a problem for anyone, and I should be around on May 10 in case of any potential hiccups.)

I am continuing to enjoy re-reading your mini-papers and now reading some final drafts.  I try to provide some general feedback on drafts within a few days of receipt, but that opportunity will be extinguished in the next few days.  Feel free to email me with any questions. 

May 3, 2018 in Class activities, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2018

Examining the "why" and "who" of modern mass incarceration and its potential alternatives

As we finish up the semester with a final few classes examining the particulars of modern mass incarceration and possible alternatives, I realize it would be useful and fitting to return to some of the early themes of the class concerning the "why" and "who" of sentencing.  Specifically (and building off themes stressed by Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff at the Reckless-Dinitz Lecture), I will likely start Monday's class by exploring:

(1) "why" incarceration has become such a popular punishment in modern American history, and

(2) "who" has been most responsible for the particular emphasis on incarceration in modern American history.

I think some reasonable answers to these questions are important for anyone eager to move the nation away from modern mass incarceration: without having some sense of just why incarceration has proved so popular and just who has had a leading role in inflating incarceration levels, it will be hard to engineer a successful change of course.

Especially because there have recently been a whole lot of notable new court opinions about Eighth Amendment limits on extreme juvenile prison sentences — see examples here and here and here and here and here from the Third Circuit, the District of Connecticut, the Iowa Supreme Court, the Georgia Supreme Court and the Wyoming Supreme Court — I am especially eager to discuss what role we think courts have played in creating modern mass incarceration and what role courts could play in moving us away from modern mass incarceration.

In this context (and again to serve as a kind of semester review), I think it important to recognize that courts have played a major role in the modern decline of the death penalty in the United States over the last two decades.  All sort of litigation has played all sorts of roles in "gumming up" the modern machinery of death, and many abolitionists have come to expect that the US Supreme Court will play a starring role in a final push to have the death penalty fully abolished throughout the United States. 

Is there any basis to hope or expect courts to play a major role in a decline in the use of incarceration in the United States over the next two decades?

April 15, 2018 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Class activities, Theories of punishment, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 11, 2018

Should particular pie pieces or particular populations be of particular concern for those troubled by modern mass incarceration?

Women_pie_2017The question in the title of this post will be one I will be eager to unpack in coming classes, and it is inspired in part by the points emphasized in the Prison Policy Initiative updated version of its terrific incarceration "pie" graphic and report now at this link.  Here is part of the PPI pie report's introductory text and subsequent discussion:

While this pie chart provides a comprehensive snapshot of our correctional system, the graphic does not capture the enormous churn in and out of our correctional facilities and the far larger universe of people whose lives are affected by the criminal justice system. Every year, 626,000 people walk out of prison gates, but people go to jail 10.6 million times each year. Jail churn is particularly high because most people in jails have not been convicted. Some have just been arrested and will make bail in the next few hours or days, and others are too poor to make bail and must remain behind bars until their trial. Only a small number (150,000 on any given day) have been convicted, generally serving misdemeanors sentences under a year....

Breaking down incarceration by offense type also exposes some disturbing facts about the youth confined by our criminal and juvenile justice systems: Too many are there for a “most serious offense” that is not even a crime. For example, there are over 8,500 youth behind bars for “technical violations” of the requirements of their probation, rather than for a new offense. Further, 2,300 youth are locked up for “status” offenses, which are “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.” Nearly 1 in 10 is held in an adult jail or prison, and most of the others are held in juvenile facilities that look and operate a lot like prisons and jails.

Turning to the people who are locked up criminally and civilly for immigration-related issues, we find that 13,000 people are in federal prison for criminal convictions of violating federal immigration laws, and 13,000 more are held pretrial by U.S. Marshals. Another 34,000 are civilly detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separate from any criminal proceedings and are physically confined in federally-run or privately-run immigration detention facilities or in local jails under contract with ICE. (Notably, these categories do not include immigrants represented in other pie slices because of non-immigration related criminal convictions.)

Adding to the universe of people who are confined because of justice system involvement, 22,000 people are involuntarily detained or committed to state psychiatric hospitals and civil commitment centers. Many of these people are not even convicted, and some are held indefinitely. 9,000 are being evaluated pre-trial or treated for incompetency to stand trial; 6,000 have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill; another 6,000 are people convicted of sexual crimes who are involuntarily committed after their prison sentences are complete. While these facilities aren’t typically run by departments of correction, they are in reality much like prisons....

While this “whole pie” provides the most inclusive view of the various systems of confinement in the U.S. justice system available, these snapshots can’t capture all of the important systemic issues. Once we have wrapped our minds around the “whole pie” of mass incarceration, for example, we should zoom out and note that being locked up is just one piece of the larger pie of correctional control. There are another 840,000 people on parole and a staggering 3.7 million people on probation. Particularly given the often onerous conditions of probation, policymakers should be cautious of “alternatives to incarceration” that can easily widen the net of criminalization to people who are not a threat to public safety.

Beyond identifying the parts of the criminal justice system that impact the most people, we should also focus on who is most impacted and who is left behind by policy change. For example, people of color are dramatically overrepresented in the nation’s prisons and jails. These racial disparities are particularly stark for Blacks, who make up 40% of the incarcerated population despite representing only 13% of U.S residents. Gender disparities matter too: rates of incarceration have grown even faster for women than for men. As policymakers continue to push for reforms that reduce incarceration, they should avoid changes that will widen disparities, as has happened with juvenile confinement and with women in state prisons.

Notably, last fall the Prison Policy Initiative working jointly with the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice released this great report with a particular population perspective: "Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017."  The report explains that it provides "a first-of-its-kind detailed view of the 219,000 women incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even larger picture of correctional control."  In addition to thinking about how the female incarceration "pie" looks different, I wonder if you share my concern about discussion of "women's mass incarceration" given that there are around 165 million women in the United States and thus really less than 0.15% of all US women are incarcerated. 

Is it accurate and helpful to describe a phenomenon as "mass" if it directly impacts less than 1 out of 500 persons in a population?

April 11, 2018 in Class activities, Scope of imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 07, 2018

Reading in preparation of John Pfaff's visit on April 12 and our discussions of mass incarceration

9780465096916As repeatedly mentioned in class, Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff will be on campus this coming Thursday, April 12.  At 4pm at the Barrister Club he will be delivering the Reckless-Dinitz Lecture titled "Moving Past the Standard Story: Rethinking the Causes of Mass Incarceration." Here is the abstract for this lecture:

"Reducing America's exceptional reliance on incarceration is one of the few issues of genuine bipartisan cooperation these days. Yet despite years of work, change has been slow and halting.  One critical reason is that the story we tell about what has driven prison growth often emphasizes causes that matter less at the expense of those that matter more.
"We talk about the impact of long sentences — which certainly matter — but end up overlooking the even more important role of prosecutorial charging behavior in the process.  We emphasize the need to stop sending people to prison for drugs, but as a result fail to talk about changing how we punish those convicted of violence — even though only 15% of the prison population is serving time for drugs, compared to over 50% for violence.  And reformers frequently direct their attention on private prisons, and thus don't focus on the fact that public institutions hold over 90% of all inmates, and that (public) correctional officer unions and legislators with public prisons in their districts play far bigger roles than the private prison firms in pushing back against reform efforts. Even the modest reductions in prison populations since 2010 are something to celebrate, but more substantive cuts will require us to start asking tougher questions about the sorts of changes we need to demand."

As I have noted before, Professor Pfaff is the author of Locked in: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform (2017), and I expect his lecture will be covering many points he develops in his book.  Were I an evil lawprof, I could demannd that you all read his full book ASAP.  Instead, I will be content to here link to some effective reviews of Locked In:

Though everyone should feel free to read Locked In, for class discussion purposes I think it might be useful for folks to read Professor Pfaff latest commentary titled "A Smarter Approach to Federal Assistance with State-Level Criminal Justice Reform."  Here is its abstract:

This brief explains how Congress and the president can best help reduce our country’s outsized reliance on imprisonment, a goal with rare, widespread bipartisan support. Successful interventions will need to target issues that previous efforts have overlooked or ignored, and they will need to take better account of the haphazard ways that costs, benefits, and responsibilities are fractured across city, county, state, and federal governments. If designed properly, however, federal efforts could play an important role in pushing our criminal justice system to adopt more efficient, as well as more humane, approaches to managing and reducing crime.

April 7, 2018 in Class activities, Scope of imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 26, 2018

Reading in preparation of Zac Bolitho's visit on Monday, April 2

On April 2, Zachary Bolitho, Moritz class of 2007 who now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Associate Deputy Attorney General to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will be speaking to our class.  As mentioned in class, here is how he would like all of us to prepare for his visit:

In terms of reading, it might be helpful if the students were familiar with Judge Pryor’s “presumptive guidelines” proposal (described in this speech to the American Law Institute).  I plan to spend a few minutes discussing how the Commission operates, what role DOJ plays in the process, what amendments are pending at the Commission now, and then I’d like to just have a discussion with the students.  I’d particularly love to hear their reactions to Judge Pryor’s proposal.

If there are particular questions that you would like me to address (or topics you know the students will want to discuss), please send them my way.

March 26, 2018 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 25, 2018

Some recent posts about the Department of Justice and the US Sentencing Commission that might inspire mini-paper #4

As highlighted in previous posts,  on April 2, Zachary Bolitho, Moritz class of 2007 who now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Associate Deputy Attorney General to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will be speaking to our class.  As repeatedly mentioned, and as shown at the end of this list of US Sentencing Commissioners, Zachary Bolitho also now serves as the designated ex officio member of the United States Sentencing Commission representing the Attorney General. 

As also repeatedly mentioned, mini-paper #4 should be a short memo addressed to ADAG Bolitho on whatever topic you would be eager to raise with him.  If looking for ideas, here are links to a few posts from my main blog highlighting news of various sorts involving the US Sentencing Commission and the US Department of Justice (and the Trump White House):

 

Regarding US Sentencing Commission:

Interesting new US Sentencing Commission analysis of possible impact of Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

Another US Sentencing Commission public hearing on alternatives to incarceration and synthetic drugs 

Prez Trump makes (tough) nominations to US Sentencing Commission 

Lots of notable reaction to Prez Trump's nominations to the US Sentencing Commission

 

Regarding US Department of Justice:

New spending bill includes a lot more money for Justice Department to fight drug war even harder 

AG Jeff Sessions issues memo to "strongly encourage federal prosecutors ... when appropriate" to pursue "capital punishment in appropriate cases" 

Notable report of AG Sessions seeking more federal death sentences, but what about carrying out those long ago imposed? 

DOJ casting new marijuana enforcement memo in terms of "rule of law" and "local control" 

AG Sessions gives full accounting of his full law-and-order approach to his work as Attorney General

 

Regarding Trump White House:

Via executive order, Prez Trump creates new Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry 

Trump White House expresses opposition to sentencing reform part of SRCA of 2017

Highlights from Prez Trump's tough talk about the opioid crisis and federal response

March 25, 2018 in Class activities, Mini-papers, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2018

Lots to consider and discuss as we get back together

I am looking forward to getting back to our discussion of federal sentencing realities this coming week, and I expect on Monday (3/19) to get us finally into a discussion of "acquitted conduct" and the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Watts, 519 U.S. 148 (1997).  But before we get together, I want to make sure everyone also knows of this great event in Saxbe right before our class: 

The 2018 David H. Bodiker Lecture on Criminal Justice will feature James Forman Jr., professor of law at Yale Law School and best-selling author of the critically acclaimed book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017), which explores how decisions made by black leaders, often with the best of intentions, contributed to disproportionately incarcerating black and brown people....

This lecture is scheduled for noon on March 19 in Saxbe Auditorium, located inside Drinko Hall.

In addition, if you have been taking a well-deserved break, you might have missed some of these posts from my other blog that touch on issues we have been exploring:

March 16, 2018 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2018

Important scheduling matters for first few weeks of April

Even though March has just gotten started, it will be April before you know it, and I wanted to make sure everyone know of some class schedule issues of importance for the first part of April.  Some of this I have mentioned in class, but some of this is new news (and would be helped by student input):

Monday, April 2: Zachary Bolitho, Moritz class of 2007 who now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Associate Deputy Attorney General to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will be speaking to our class.  As repeatedly mentioned, and as shown at the end of this list of US Sentencing Commissioners, Zachary Bolitho also now serves as the designated ex officio member of the United States Sentencing Commission representing the Attorney General.  As mentioned also repeatedly mentioned, mini-paper #4 should be a memo addressed to ADAG Bolitho.

Monday, April 9NO CLASS!!

Thursday, April 12: Make-up class possibilities:

March 6, 2018 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2018

Diving deep into many particulars of modern guideline sentencing (and mandatory minimums) for Rob Anon and others

This final week before Spring Break, we will be diving even deeper into the sentencing of Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I continue to welcome comments to this prior post if/when you want to discuss your experiences with guideline sentencing, though I also welcome new comments here as I reprint the US Sentencing Commission's latest accounting of the average sentences that modern federal robbery defendants now receive. 

Over the last few years, the US Sentencing Commission has be producing terrific Quick Fact publications (you might call them mini-papers) about various federal sentencing realities. This recent one for "Robbery Offenses" was released in August 2017, and reported that in "fiscal year 2016, there were 1,554 robbery offenders, who accounted for 2.5% of all offenders sentenced under the guidelines."  This two-page document has too much data to capture in this space, but here are particulars that seem particularly notable in light of our Rob Anon exercise:  

The most common Criminal History Category for these offenders was Category I (25.0%). The proportion of these offenders in other Criminal History Categories was as follows:  11.0% of these offenders were in Category II; 20.2% were in Category III; 13.5% were in Category IV;  7.8% were in Category V; and 22.6% were in Category VI.

The median loss for these offenses was $2,846.  92.1% of robbery offenses involved losses of $95,000 or less.  82.5% of robbery offenses involved losses of $20,000 or less.

Sentences for robbery offenders were increased for: 48.7% of offenders for taking the property of a financial institution or post office; 61.2% of offenders for using or brandishing a firearm or dangerous weapon or making a threat of death; 13.0% of offenders because a victim sustained bodily injury; 22.0% of offenders for abducting or physically restraining a victim; 8.5% of offenders for carjacking; 8.2% of offenders for taking a firearm, destructive device, or controlled substance; and 5.1% of offenders for recklessly creating a risk of death or bodily injury in the course of fleeing from a law enforcement officer.

More than one-third (34.1%) of robbery offenders also had convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

The average sentence length for robbery offenders was 111 months.  

  • The average sentence length for robbery offenders with a conviction under section 924(c) was 180 months. 
  • The average sentence length for robbery offenders without a conviction under section 924(c) was 75 months. 

In fiscal year 2016, 46.7% of robbery offenders without a conviction under section 924(c) were sentenced within the guideline range.

  • Substantial assistance departures were granted in approximately 11 to 13 percent of robbery cases without section 924(c) convictions in each of the past five years.
    The average reduction for these offenders was 42.6% during the five year time period (which corresponds to an average reduction of 36 months).
  • The rate of non-government sponsored below range sentences increased during the past five years for robbery cases without section 924(c) convictions from 22.5% to 24.7%.  The average reduction for these offenders was 32.1% during the five year time period (which corresponds to an average reduction of 24 months).

In fiscal year 2016, 43.0% of robbery offenders with a section 924(c) conviction were sentenced within the guideline range.

  • Substantial assistance departures were granted in approximately 19 to 22 percent of robbery cases with section 924(c) convictions in each of the past five years.
    The average reduction for these offenders was 41.7% during the five year time period (which corresponds to an average reduction of 84 months).
  • The rate of non-government sponsored below range sentences increased during the past five years for robbery cases with section 924(c) convictions from 18 to
    21 percent. The average reduction for these offenders was 17.3% during the five year time period (which corresponds to an average reduction of 31 months).

UPDATE: It just dawned on me, as I was thinking about how much to talk about the impact of section 924(c) charges and convictions in the federal sentencing process, that I should flag that just last year the Supreme Court finally got around to discussing the interplay of mandatory minimum sentencing provisions and the discretion created by Booker's conversion of the guidelines from mandates to advice.  The Supreme Court's unanimous(!) work in Dean v. United States is worth checking out, in part because it highlights the potential severity of "stacked" 924(c) convictions.

And if you have been wondering, "what the heck is a section 924(c) conviction and why is it so significant," here is a link or two or three to help(?) on that front.

March 5, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2018

Interesting accounting of federal bank robbery sentencing (and parole) in pre-guidelines era

Starting with Wednesday's class, we will start unpacking the sentencing of Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I welcome comments to this prior post if/when you want to discuss your experiences with guideline sentencing.  This post, however, is meant to wrap up our pre-guideline sentencing experiences with the help of this interesting 1986 US Government Accounting Office report reviewing the "median sentences imposed and median time served for 609 offenders convicted of armed and unarmed bank robbery who were confined in the Federal Prison System as of June 30, 1983, and on whom release decisions had been made by the Parole Commission."

I think folks find might the whole US GAO report interesting, but I will provide this imperfect summary:

Usefully, the short report also notes that the US Parole Commission had "established parole release guidelines as required by law which indicate the customary range of time to be served by offenders before release from prison." These parole guidelines had two parts, "offense severity and parole prognosis": the severity of the offense was "broken down into eight categories" and the parole prognosis score ranging "from 0 to 10."  These Parole Commission guidelines served as a partial template for the work of the original US Sentencing Commission creating the original US Sentencing Guidelines (especially its criminal history categories).

In addition to giving you another perspective on the range of sentencing outcomes for the likes of Rob Anon, this report serves as another reminder of just how practically consequential the abolition of parole was as a feature of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.  We will discuss that reality and other parts of the SRA starting Wednesday. 

February 26, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2018

Exploring federal sentencing realities for some local federal appellants

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. Continuing a series of posts providing suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3, below are some links to some Sixth Circuit opinions all from the first two months of 2018 in cases in which a federal defendant appealed some aspect of his federal sentencing.

As we will discuss in class, before modern guideline reforms, appeals of federal sentences were very rare and very rarely successful. Now, as you can see from the list below, federal sentencing appeals are quite common (and you will have to click through to get a sense for how often successful):

United States v. Terrance Ford and Brian Williams (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 120 months and 180 months, respectively)

United States v. Richard Thornton and Keenan Crane and David Tatum (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 136 months, 80 months, and 66 months, respectively).

United States v. Bernardo Santana (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 180 months)

United States v. Michael Ferguson (firearm offenses resulting in imprisonment for 105 months)

United States v. Kenneth Jozwiak (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 51 months)

United States v. Anthony Sanders (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 60 months)

United States v. John Benchick (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 110 months)

United States v. Malcolm Roberson (firearm offenses resulting in imprisonment for 41 months)

United States v. Arthur Charles Smith (armed robbery offenses resulting in imprisonment for 262 month)

United States v. James Cortelyou (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 157 months)

United States v. Timothy Vallier (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 264 months)

United States v. Donald Allen (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 300 months)

United States v. Velasquez Curuchiche (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 600 months)

February 25, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2018

Some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines

As stressed in class last week, the next two weeks are going to involve detailed discussions of federal sentencing policies and practice before and after modern guideline reforms. 

We will begin on Monday with a deep discussion of the sentencing realities faced in sentencing Rob Anon in a pre-guideline world (the world Judge Marvin Frankel criticizes in the excerpt in our text which you should read and re-read).  In addition to imagining how you, as a judge, would sentence Rob Anon in this world, think also about how prosecutors and defense attorneys would approach sentencing in a pre-guideline world. 

We will then turn to sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I highly encourage class members to try to figure out how to identify and assess federal guideline sentencing laws relevant to Rob Anon with just the help of on-line search materials or traditional legal research resources (and feel free to use the comments to express frustration).  Consider that a federal defendant or a novice lawyer taking on his or her first federal criminal case will not likely have access to any perfect guide (or even "Guidelines for Dummies") to enable ready understanding of the federal sentencing guidelines.

If and when you would like some basic guideline sentencing help, you can turn to these links which take you to key guideline provisions for Rob Anon appearing in 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 (again feeling free to use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help.  That said, if (when?) you want or need even 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, give particular thought to the array of challenges that modern federal sentencing law may present for modern federal sentencing lawyers.   If you want to think particularly about the import and impact of sentencing law for the work of defense attorneys, perhaps check out this article I wrote some years ago seeking to highlight "the array of challenges that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines create for defense counsel."

February 24, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 20, 2018

Unearthing federal sentencing realities for some celebrity federal defendants

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. Continuing a series of posts providing a suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3, here are some links to posts from my main blog from the last few years about "famous" or high-profile offenders whose federal sentencing stories you might find engaging:

Rene Boucher (that guy who attacked Senator Rand Paul)

Michael Flynn

Jared Fogle

Dennis Hastert (former speaker of the US House)

Abby Lee Miller (star of Dance Moms)

Larry Nasser

Sholom Rubashkin (rabbi who receive commutation from Prez Trump)

Sheldon Silver (former speaker of New York Assembly)

Martin Shkreli (that Pharmo Bro guy)

Michael Slager

Kevin Trudeau (infamous infomercial star)

Ross Ulbricht (creator of Silk Road website)

Anthony Weiner

February 20, 2018 in Class activities, Course requirements, Guideline sentencing systems | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2018

Unearthing federal sentencing realities under federal defendants now before SCOTUS

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. In a series of posts, I will be providing a series of suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3.

In this post, for example, I thought it worth highlighting federal defendants whose cases are currently before the Supreme Court.  Sentencing issues are the focal point for SCOTUS in some of these cases, but other matters concern SCOTUS for the first five cases listed below.  Below I have provided links to SCOTUSblog materials on cases involving federal criminal defendants now pending before the Justices, along with the sentences the defendants received according to the briefs of the US Solicitor General:

Class v. United States ("sentenced to 24 days of imprisonment, to be followed by 12 months of supervised release")

Carpenter v. United States ("sentenced ... to 1395 months in prison")

Marinello v. United States ("sentenced ... to 36 months of imprisonment, to be followed by one year of supervised release")

Byrd v. United States ("sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release")

Dahda v. United States ("sentenced to 189 months of imprisonment, to be followed by ten years of supervised release")

----

Lagos v. United States ("sentenced petitioner to 97 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered $15,970,517 in restitution")

Rosales-Mireles v. United States ("sentenced ... to 78 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release")

Hughes v. United States ("sentenced to 180 months of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release")

Koons v. United States ("sentenced ... to 180 months in prison, to be followed by ten years of supervised release")

Chavez-Meza v. United States ("sentenced to 135 months of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release")

February 18, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Mini-papers, Supreme Court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2018

Westerville police shooting creates not only Ohio capital punishment case, but also interesting potential federal sentencing case

We discussed in class today some of the dynamics sure to surround a possible capital prosecution of Quentin Smith, the suspect charged with killing two Westerville police officers over the weekend.  Against that backdrop, I found notable this new local article headlined "The death penalty: Is it cheaper? Why does it take so long from sentencing to execution?". Here are some other questions this article poses (click through to see the answers given):

Q: What does a death penalty indictment mean?

Q: Will the court process be different in a death penalty case?

Q: A death sentence means the case will be cheaper because the defendant dies, right?

Q: How long after a death sentence being imposed will a person be executed?

Q: Does the jury or the judge decide if a person gets a death sentence?

Also notable, and likely to become a topic for discussion later in our class, is news of a federal prosecution resulting from this shooting.  This Columbus Dispatch article, headlined "Northeast Ohio man charged with buying gun used to kill Westerville officers," provides these basics:

A Cleveland-area man was scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in Columbus Monday, charged with providing a Glock semi-automatic handgun to the convicted felon accused of killing two Westerville police officers over the weekend.

Gerald A. Lawson III, 30, of Warrensville Heights, was taken into custody by federal agents just before noon at his home and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to a release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.  Lawson was to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly A. Jolson Monday afternoon in Columbus.

His arrest came two days after Quentin L. Smith allegedly killed veteran Westerville officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering, who were responding to a 911 hangup call from a Cross Wind Drive residence. A criminal complaint says Smith retrieved a handgun after officers entered the residence and shot both. Joering died at the scene; Morelli died a short time later at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center....

Investigators say Smith provided money and an extra $100 payment to Lawson to purchase the firearm and that Lawson knew that Smith was a convicted felon. A trace determined the gun was bought in Broadview Heights, a Cleveland suburb.

The two are longtime friends, with several photos of the two together posted online on one of Lawson’s social media accounts, according to a release.

At the risk of asking you to pre-judge the matter, I encourage you to think about what kind of punishment you might be inclined to impose upon Gerald A. Lawson III for illegally acquiring a gun for his friend that his friend used to kill two police officers.

February 12, 2018 in Class activities, Ohio news and commentary, Recent news and developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 05, 2018

Gearing up to represent (or prosecute) the Unibomber

As I have repeatedly mentioned in class, we will be exploring in our next few classes how Florida, Texas and Ohio capital sentencing laws help guide jury death sentencing discretion for the Unibomber (and others).  The essentials for preparation appear at pp. 252 to 257 of our text, though you also need to check out two Ohio statutory provisions via the web: 2929.03 Imposition of sentence for aggravated murder and 2929.04 Death penalty or imprisonment - aggravating and mitigating factors.

For a lot more information about "your client," here is a massive Wikipedia entry on Ted Kaczynski.  That entry has (too) many great links, though I would especially encourage checking out at least some of the Unibomber's (in)famous Manifesto, "INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE" as well as  this lengthy Time article by Stephen J. Dubner from 1999 about Teddy K. headlined "I Don't Want To Live Long.  I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison."

And if you want to have some old-school SNL fun while preparing for this discussion, these are fun to check out:

February 5, 2018 in Class activities, Death eligible offenses, Death penalty history | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2018

Gameplans for continuing capital punishment discussions

Because we have been moving (usefully) slowly through our discussion of capital constitutional history, I want to make sure everyone is sure about what I expect/hope to cover over the next few weeks:

Week of Feb 5: We will finish up a discussion of Furman/Gregg/Woodson/Roberts which help explain/define modern DP realities and we will explore how Florida, Texas and Ohio capital sentencing laws help guide jury death sentencing discretion for the Unibomber (and others).  (I will do a separate post with a lot more information about Ted Kaczynski, whom some of you will be asked to defend or prosecute). 

Week of Feb 12: We will discuss 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 and thereafter try to start wrapping up DP discussions and transition to LWOP/non-capital sentencing issues for constitutional courts and other actors.

February 3, 2018 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2018

The full McGautha and Furman...

are worth reading in full if you final constitutional history and/or death penalty procedure really interesting.

The full McGautha can be found here; reading just the majority opinion authored by Justice Harlan (which is only 1/4 of the whole thing) is encouraged, but not required, for having extra fun throughout next week's discussion.

The full Furman can be found here; reading the whole thing could take you the rest of the semester, and our casebook aspires to provide strategic highlights from each of the nine(!) opinions.  I will ask you in class to think about which of the nine opinions you would be most likely to join, so you might want to read the full version of the one opinion you find most appealing from our casebook.

UPDATE In addition to continuing our discussion of capital constitutional history in this coming week, we will migrate to a discussion of how capital punishment is now administered.  That will, of course, take us back to a discussion of "who sentences," and it also will perhaps have us focused on our own state of Ohio which now is scheduled to have the next US execution.  With Ohio and who in mind, folks might be interested in this recent post from my other blog:

Are Governors considering capital clemency inclined to give great weight to capital jurors calling for a commutation?

January 25, 2018 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2018

Diving deeper into "who" and "how" with a little help from a new Massachusetts case

Next week we will continue to discuss the Williams case in order to continue to unpack the relationship between theories of punishment and the "who" and "how" of sentencing.  And, before we wrap up our Williams discussion, I will review what doctrines from Williams remain good law and what do not.  That discussion may lead us to discuss the more modern McMillan and Blakely cases, so be sure to have read those cases for next week.

The McMillan case also brings up the "why" and "who" and "how" of mandatory minimum sentencing.  So be sure to read (and re-read) the selection from the US Sentencing Commission about the debate over mandatory minimums (MMs) and think about who ends up with the most sentencing power in a jurisdiction that makes regular us of MMs.

Last but not least for next week, I hope we can take about the role of crime victims at sentencing and you have a reading selection in the text that covers this part of the who story.  But, conveniently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down a notable short ruling on these issues just today: Massachusetts v. McGonagle, SJC-12292 (Mass. Jan. 18, 2018) (available here).  Because I so enjoy bringing "hot new cases" into our discussions, I encourage everyone to read this new McGonagle case instead of (or in addition to) the victim-input section of the text.

January 18, 2018 in Class activities, Interesting new cases, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 16, 2018

How can and should "why punish" issues influence the "who" and "how" of sentencing?

As we transition to a discussion of the "who" and "how" of sentencing — beginning with a deep dive into the 1949 case Williams v. New York — you should be giving particular thought to how a sentencing system can and should integrate its basic "why punish" commitments into its sentencing process.  You should see how the Williams ruling was driven in part by the punishment theories of the time: the "prevalent modern philosophy of penology that the punishment should fit the offender and not merely the crime" and "the belief that by careful study of the lives and personalities of convicted offenders many could be less severely punished and restored sooner to complete freedom and useful citizenship." 

The class survey indicated a strong affinity for prioritizing rehabilitation and deterrence as theories of punishment.  If Ohio was to make these punishment theories predominant, which actors in the criminal justice system should have the most sentencing authority?  Which should have the least?  Should the answer to "who" sentences change if a jurisdiction prioritizes retribution or incapacitation?  What if it does not prioritize any particular theory?

January 16, 2018 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2017

Welcome the the class blog of Sentencing Law @ Moritz College of Law (with first week details)

This blog got started over 10 years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in a Spring 2007 course on the death penalty.  Because the blog proved successful during that semester, and because the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still generates web traffic, I have kept repeatedly building subsequent sentencing classes on this platform by rebooting this blog for each new course.  

On the eve of 2018, I am excited again to be gearing up again to teach Sentencing Law at the Moritz College of Law and to be again planning to use this blog to flag current events and cases to supplement our class readings and discussions.  Because I use this blog (rather than TWEN) as convenient place to post information about class activities and plans and assignments, students can and should be on the look out for class materials and announcement posted here. So, for example, here is a repeating of what is posted on the Moritz official website for our first assignments (along with electronic copies of the basic course documents):

In preparation for our first week of classes starting Monday, January 8, 2018 you should:

1.  Get a copy of the THIRD edition of the casebook for the course, along with the course description/syllabus.

2.  Access the questionnaire and fill it out before our first class.  (In addition to being posted below, the questionnaire and course description/syllabus are 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 2018 Course description

Download 2018 Fall pre Class Survey 

 

You will discover that the last item in the questionnaire references recent clemency activity by recent presidents, and here are a few links with background:

Background on President Obama's Clemency Initiative

"Obama used clemency power more often than any president since Truman"

An Analysis of the Implementation of the 2014 Clemency Initiative

 

"Trump commutes sentence of kosher meatpacking executive"

"Trump Did a Good Thing: In praise of the president’s decision to commute Sholom Rubashkin’s sentence."

"Immigration hawks protest Trump giving Sholom Rubashkin first prison commutation"

December 30, 2017 in About this blog, Class activities, Clemency, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2016

Last call for mini-papers submission, first call for final paper inquiries/meetings/review

As explained in this prior post, an essential element of completing our course for credit is the submission of at least two mini papers, and the due date for these papers is the start of this coming week. ANy student struggling to meet this requirement should contact me ASAP.

With mini-papers now being wrapped up, students are welcomed and encouraged to meet with me or reach out in others way with any questions or concerns or desire for feedback concerning the final paper. I should be around the law school and generally available through Dec 23 (which is when the final paper is due), and I am eager to help anyone wanting/seeking help with the final paper assignment.

December 11, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 04, 2016

Reviewing the final fulsome mini-paper opportunities

In a coming post, I will try to clarify any lingering questions students have about completing the final paper.  But as classes technically are not yet done, I want to first clarify student mini-paper opportunities/expectations.

First, to complete the course is a satisfactory manner, a student has to have submitted at least two mini-papers.  (If I have not received at least two mini-papers from a student by Dec 12, I will notify the student of the deficiency and its consequences.)

Second, every student is encouraged to earn extra credit by submitting more than the two-mini-paper minimum.  But all mini-papers need to be submitted no later than Dec 12 to receive full credit/extra credit for your work.

Third, I put forth the following three final mini-paper possibilities:

  1. Reviewing Prez Obama's sentencing reform legacy
  2. Recommending activities/concerns for Attorney General designee Jeff Sessions
  3. Assessing the sentencing history/views of one (or more) of the 21 persons on Prez-Elect Donald Trump's SCOTUS short-list

Among the benefits/challenges of completing a mini-paper on this topics is the possibility that I may ask to publish your analysis on my main blog or maybe even in the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

Any questions?

December 4, 2016 in Class activities, Mini-papers, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 08, 2016

Gearing up for figuing the (right?) sentence for the various convicted "Bridgegate" federal criminals

As I mentioned in class today, our coming exploration of the federal sentencing system will be based in part on using the real-world "Bridgegate" case into a real-world sentencing exercise.  To get started in preparation to that end, I recommend some review of at least the following two links:

This Wikipedia page, titled "Fort Lee lane closure scandal" provides lots of background on the scandal, at it provides this very helpful initial summary of the crime and the three protagonists now facing federal sentencing:

The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, or Bridgegate, is a U.S. political scandal in which a staff member and political appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) colluded to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing lanes at the main toll plaza for the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.

The problems began on Monday, September 9, 2013, when two of three toll lanes for a local street entrance were closed during morning rush hour. Local officials, emergency services, and the public were not notified of the lane closures, which Fort Lee declared a threat to public safety. The resulting back-ups and gridlock on local streets ended only when the two lanes were reopened on Friday, September 13, 2013, by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. He said that the "hasty and ill-informed decision" could have endangered lives and violated federal and state laws.

The ensuing investigations centered on several of Christie's appointees and staff, including David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed, and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study.

The United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman launched a massive federal investigation, resulting in a sweeping nine-count indictment against Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, Baroni and Wildstein. Wildstein entered a guilty plea, and testified against Baroni and Kelly, who were found guilty on all counts in November 2016.

The copy of the plea agreement in which Mr. Wildstein agreed to plead guilty and which also has a copy of his charging "information."

November 8, 2016 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct, Scope of imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

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 28, 2016 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 20, 2016 in Class activities, Current Affairs, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

1983                 33,216

1993                 88,565

2003                 172,499

2013                 219,218

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 17, 2016 in Class activities, Clemency, Data on sentencing, Race and gender issues, Scope of imprisonment, Sentencing data, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 12, 2016 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Class activities, Death penalty history, Theories of punishment, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 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:

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 5, 2016 in Class activities, Course requirements, Execution methods, Ohio news and commentary, Race and gender issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2016

Some links to SNL skits about Teddy K.

As promised, these are fun to check out:

September 27, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 14, 2016

The full McGautha...

can be found here.  Reading just the majority opinion authored by Justice Harlan (which is only 1/4 of the whole thing) is encouraged, but not required, for having extra fun throughout next week's discussion.  I also think everyone should at least get started reading Furman and Gregg and subsequent SCOTUS cases in chapter 3 of our text ASAP.

September 14, 2016 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2016

Lots of interesting new buzz concerning the (sort of dormant) Ohio death penalty

Conveniently, my week away proved to be a period in which some interesting local death penalty news and commentary emerged, as evidence by these two recent posts from my main blog:

These topics and lots of others will be a part of our coming extensive discussion of death penalty theory, policy and practice over the next few weeks.

September 12, 2016 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Execution methods, Ohio news and commentary, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 07, 2016

A glimpse into the hows (and whos) of federal death sentencing in a high-profile case

This new BuzzFeed News article, headlined "Prosecutors Want To Limit Dylann Roof’s Use Of A “Mercy” Defense," provides an effective summary of this interesting motion filed by prosecutors in a high profile federal capital case.  Especially because we will be jumping into the history, law and practice of capital punishment next week, I recommend everyone consider checking out the motion.

September 7, 2016 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2016

Basic information on the methods and madness of mini-paper assignment(s)

As the Course Description noted, part of your formal work in this class is to author (at least) two “mini-papers” which will comprise up to 20% of your final grade.  (You can look through this blog's archives to see examples of the kinds of in-semester writings I have urged students to produce in previous years, though please know each year I tweak the topics and format of this class requirement.)

Absent further instructions/modifications, here is my planned approach to the mini-paper assignment this time around:  Each submitted mini-papers must be no more than four pages long (and can be MUCH shorter), and should respond to my in-class prompts that I plan to provide every few weeks.  The first prompt, for example, was (formally?) delivered today in class when I encouraged all to write up your personal "sentencing topic of interest" with a particular focus/reflection on the meta-topics we have discussed our first few weeks in class (namely theories of punishment and who sentences).

I expect to provide a new prompt for a new mini-paper every few weeks, usually right after these (Monday AM) tentative submission due dates for these mini-papers:

 • September 19 (for "topic of interest" mini-paper)

 • October 10 (for what will likely be a death penalty prompt)

 • November 7 (for what will likely be a federal sentencing prompt)

 • December 5 (for what will likely be a "SCOTUS-as-who" sentencing prompt)

As also hinted in class, one goal for this assignment is to engender additional inter-student substantive discourse; that is why, subject to any stated objections/concerns for certain submissions, I expect to distribute everyone's submitted mini-papers back to the class for all to read and consider.

Because the comments to this blog are now working, I encourage students to use the comments to ask any basic follow-up questions or to express any concerns about these assignments.  And, to be perfectly clear, though I will be providing (at least) four formal prompts for mini-paper writing, students are requires only to complete two mini-papers throughout the semester.  (But because you get this option, I will be expecting the papers to be really good, and you can earn extra credit by submitting more than the mandatory minimum number of papers.)

August 29, 2016 in Class activities, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (2)

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:

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 (2)

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)

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)

May 05, 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, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (1)

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)

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)

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

April 06, 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