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Chapter 14: Current Debates
Chapter 14: Current Debates

The Shaky Status of Sentencing Guidelines

Fifteen Years of Guidelines Sentencing A report. (U.S. Sentencing Commission)
Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000)
Blakely v. Washington (2004)
Blakely Blog A blog dedicated to collecting opinions, articles and scholarly thoughts regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Blakely v. Washington.
The Supreme Beginner The story of attorney Jeffrey Fisher, who at age 33 won two major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court—Blakely v. Washington and Crawford v. Washington. (Los Angeles Times Magazine)
U.S. v. Booker (2005)
Online NewsHour: Sentencing Guidelines 2 News reports of the Booker decision.
Talk Left: Booker-Blakely Archives A legal weblog’s archive on the two decisions.
Booker and Fanfan Materials Documents, tables, and charts collected since the decisions. (U.S. Sentencing Commission)
The Supreme Court’s Sentencing Guidelines Decision: Its Logic, and Its Surprisingly Limited Practical Effect Attorney Edward Lazarus discusses the Booker decision, its likely practical consequences, and its unusual two-part opinion. (FindLaw)
Booker and Fanfan Commentary Collected commentary from another blog. (Sentencing and Law Policy)
One Cheer for United States v. Booker (PDF file)Timothy Lynch analyzes the Booker decision. (Cato Institute)

Are Too Many People Behind Bars?

Correctional Populations in the United States—Statistical Tables Data on the number of persons in the United States under some form of correctional supervision. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Prison Statistics Current statistics and links to federal government publications on prisons. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Prisoners in 2004 The annual report on prisoners in the United States. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
World Prison Population List Comparative statistics of prison populations around the world. (Home Office Research)
Why Are We So Punitive? Some Observations on Recent Incarceration Trends (PDF file) Exploration of prison and jail population trends and an argument against massive incarceration. (National Policy Institute)
Crunching Numbers: Crime and Incarceration at the End of the Millennium (PDF file) Bureau of Justice Statistics Director Jan Chaiken explores some of the complex trends in property crime, rape, and violence among intimates and highlights some of the implications of the high rates of incarceration.
Right-Sizing Justice: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Imprisonment in Three States A 1999 report from John DiIulio Jr. and others about whether too many people are behind bars.
Effects of Judges’ Sentencing Decisions on Criminal Careers Findings of a study designed to determine how much judicial sentencing decisions affect offenders’ subsequent criminal careers. (National Institute of Justice)
Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: Throwing Away the Key or the Tax-Payers Money? RAND study estimating the cost-effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentences for crimes related to cocaine distribution.
Decarcerate? An essay arguing that we should start thinking of alternatives to imprisonment. (New York Times Magazine)
The Sentencing Project Organization that promotes reduced reliance on incarceration and increased use of alternatives.
Crime-Control Effect of Incarceration: Reconsidering the Evidence, Final Report to the National Institute of Justice (PDF file) A review of the evidence.
Imprisonment This National Center for Policy Analysis site contains extensive information about imprisonment, including incarceration rates, the costs and benefits of imprisonment, prisoner profiles, and views on capital punishment.
The “Three Strikes” Law Pros and cons of California’s three-strikes law.
Families to Amend California’s 3-Strikes The home page of a state-wide California organization with the purpose of amending the California three-strikes law.
Three Strikes Was the Right Call Criminologist John J. DiIulio, Jr. argues in favor of the “three strikes” law. (American Prospect)
Three Strikes and You’re Out Online resource favoring the California three-strikes law. (Mike Reynolds.)
An Assessment of the Effects of California’s Three Strikes Law (PDF file) A study finding that California’s three-strikes law had minimal effect in bringing down the state’s crime rate. (Greenwood & Associates)
Still Striking Out: Ten Years of California’s Three Strikes A critical report brief that analyzes the research data about California’s three-strikes law. (Justice Policy Institute)
“Three Strikes” Law: Does It Really Work? An examination of studies conducted on three-strikes laws. (Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy)
On the Road to a Safe and Secure California, Proposition 66 Is the Wrong Route Argument against changing California’s three-strikes law. (Claremont Institute)
Online NewsHour: Three Strikes
Doing Time (Truth in Sentencing)
A Get-Tough Policy that Failed A 1999 article arguing that mandatory sentencing is not accomplishing its objectives. (Time)
Lock ‘Em Up? Conversation at the Hoover Institution over get-tough-on-crime measures.
Does Punishment Deter? A detailed argument that punishment does deter crime.
Truth in Sentencing in State Prisons Report on the development and use of truth-in-sentencing laws and data on the growing number of states that have adopted them. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Locked In: The Price of Truth in Sentencing: A four-part special series. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

Part 1: Tougher sentencing law carries hefty price
Part 2: Door on early release closes tightly
Part 3: Once released, inmates find little help
Part 4: Another road to justice

Influences of Truth-in-Sentencing Reforms on Changes in States’ Sentencing Practices and
Prison Populations A National Institute of Justice–sponsored report on truth in sentencing laws and their effect on the prison population.
The Prison-Industrial Complex Eric Schlosser argues that a prison-industrial complex has developed in America. (Atlantic Monthly)
When They Get Out Sasha Abramsky claims that by putting such a high percentage of the population behind bars “we are creating a disaster that instead of dissipating over time will accumulate with the years.” (Atlantic Monthly)
The Sentencing Project Resources and information about criminal justice and sentencing issues from an organization opposing massive incarceration.
Measuring the Costs and Benefits of Crime and Justice Mark A. Cohen reviews state-of-the-art techniques for estimating the costs and benefits of criminal justice and prevention programs. (National Criminal Justice Reference Service)
The Debate on Rehabilitating Criminals: Is It True that Nothing Works? A 1989 Washington Post article by Jerome G. Miller arguing that rehabilitation should be central to American corrections.

Do Sentences Have to Be Proportionate?

Solem v. Helm (1983) U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that a criminal sentence must be proportionate to the crime committed.
Harmelin v. Michigan (1991)
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings upholding California’s three-strikes law:

In Lockyer v. Andrade, defendant Andrade stole $150 of videotapes from two different stores and was convicted of two felonies. Since these crimes were his third strikes, he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life.
In Ewing v. California, defendant Ewing stole three golf clubs, each worth $399, was convicted of grand theft, his third strike, and was sentenced to 25 years to life.

Both defendants appealed their sentences, saying they were grossly disproportionate to their crimes. In two 5–4 decisions, the Supreme Court upheld both sentences. The court stated that neither sentence was grossly disproportionate and that the court would only overturn the “exceedingly rare” “excessive” case.

Ewing v. California: the Supreme Court Takes a Walk on “Three Strikes” Laws...And That’s Fine A law professor argues that even though he opposes three-strike laws on policy grounds, the court decisions in Ewing and Andrade were correct. (Jurist)
Supreme Court Upholds ‘Three-Strikes’ Law News report on the Ewing and Andrade decisions. (Associated Press)
Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Resources on the Ewing and Andrade decisions. (American Bar Association)

Crack Versus Cocaine

StreetDrugs.com: Information on:

Cocaine
Crack Cocaine

NCJRS: Cocaine Publications and links from the federal government. (National Criminal Justice Reference Service)
U.S. Sentencing Commission reports to Congress on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy:

1995
1997 (PDF file)
2002

Crack’s Legacy A New York Times article discussing the effects that crack cocaine and the war on drugs have had on American society.
Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs A report concluding that the war on drugs has been waged disproportionately against black Americans. (Human Rights Watch)
Race and Class Penalties in Crack Cocaine Sentencing (PDF file) Review of and argument against federal policy on crack and cocaine. (Sentencing Project)
There’s No Justice in the War on Drugs Article opposing the war on drugs by conservative economist Milton Friedman.
State v. Russell (1991) (PDF file) Study guide for students on this Minnesota case that the state’s disparity in punishment between crack and powder cocaine violated the state’s guarantee of equal protection.
U.S. v. Armstrong (1996) U.S. Supreme Court case striking down a selective prosecution argument involving crack.
Simon v. U.S. (2005) (PDF file) A post-Booker decision by a federal trial judge on whether to follow the sentencing guidelines on crack cocaine in this particular case.