Whenever I hear someone asked, "Can you give your impression of" something or other, I can't help thinking of Leslie Nielsen in "Airplane" replying, "I'm sorry, I don't do impressions." Nevertheless, I'm going to give an initial pass at the recent NASC conference in Philadelphia, with specifics about panels and ideas later after the hallucinations from my jet lag fade slightly. (Disclaimer: I am a member of the NASC executive board and cannot be held accountable for my actions.)
Rather than the Blakely/Booker-heavy conferences of recent years, this one had a little more of something for everyone, particularly those dealing with corrections as well as sentencing. Much more emphasis on treatment evaluation, risk assessment, and their synergies (a word which was thankfully unheard the entire conference). Much on the now ubiquitous evidence-based practice and policy-making, a concept only novel in the Bizarro-land of society and culture in which we now live. A really enlightening presentation on current judicial and public attitudes and less enlightening views of other things. An announcement of significant assistance to Vera and the Council of State Governments to assist states with better sentencing, new money (actually, any money) always being welcome. Guests from the four corners of the planet, at least the stout-drinking planet. A "Jeopardy" game gone scarily awry.
The value of this conference for me and hopefully regular readers of this blog was, finally, a recognition of the need to address the plateauing that has occurred in "first generation" sentencing reform. I'll have more to say on this in the next few days (hallucination just went by--what is Jimmie Walker doing now anyway?), but we appear to be getting past our rightful pride that practically everyone can now tell the average sentence for a Burg II with two priors in their state and are beginning to continue ". . . and so??" Whether it will move us as productively as needed is still to be determined, but we've made clear that the major purpose of this blog will be to spur the kind of interaction, communication, and info-sharing among corrections folks, among sentencing folks, among corrections and sentencing folks that may bring us closer to an answer. A regular and active forum is vital, and we'll do all we can to provide and promote it. (Just click on the comment link below and let her rip.)
So. There's a little light now in the fog. We'll be doing our impressions of it over the next few days. With your help, we might be able to bring the ship into a new and better harbor. Let's give it a shot.
(Excuse me for now until I get some sleep. Hey, Jimmie! Wait up!!)