Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Prayer for 2012: Fair US Sentencing Reform, An End to the Inequities

Just came across the website in which the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights discusses United States sentencing disparities.  One salient point they discuss is this:

"Unequal treatment of minorities characterizes every stage of the process. Black and Hispanic Americans, and other minority groups as well, are victimized by disproportionate targeting and unfair treatment by police and other front-line law enforcement officials; by racially skewed charging and plea bargaining decisions of prosecutors; by discriminatory sentencing practices; and by the failure of judges, elected officials and other criminal justice policy makers to redress the inequities that become more glaring every day."

Read all at this web site:

The ACLU addressed sentencing inequities last March.  One disparity that has been well-known are the sentencing guidelines for using/selling drugs. They appealed to the Sentencing Commission to restore fairness to sentencing.

"In the 40 years since President Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs," America has spent approximately one trillion dollars pursuing a failed policy that has had little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States. In fact, the major result of this "war" is that it has helped earn America the lamentable distinction of incarcerating more people – in absolute numbers and per capita – than any other nation in the world. To make matters worse, this population disproportionately and overwhelmingly consists of individuals of color and the poor."

Read more at:

Penn Law's Study, "When Punishment Doesn't Fit the Crime," is an interesting read.
" might call (this) the “crime du jour” problem. That is, legislators get worked up about a particular offense, either because it’s been in the news or for some other reason.  As a result, they create penalties for it, but the penalties reflect their being particularly worked up at that moment. A year or so later when it’s no longer such a hot topic, that penalty sticks out as being exaggerated."

Another crime du jour of recent times is corporate crime.
"The increase in sentence severity is a nationwide phenomenom, though federal sentences are extremely harsh. Severity has ratcheted up and up again in the federal system. Both the sentences imposed and time served has increased dramatically. For example, the average federal sentence imposed between 1980 and 1995 nearly doubled, and federal offenders sentenced in 1998 will spend roughly twice as long in prison as their counterparts who were sentenced in 1984."

Sara Sun Beale, "Is Corporate Criminal Liabililty Unique?"

Sentencing has become a political tool.  Politicians get on band-wagons to quell popular outrage. In the end we have situations where there is no justice, equity, fairness or reason to the sentences that levied against individuals being punished in the US Criminal Justice System.

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