Thursday, September 14, 2006

Around the Blogs 9-14-06

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has been firing on all cylinders lately. One post of particular interest to our topics here discusses Chinese computerization of sentencing, with judges entering case elements and popping out the sentence for them to standardize decisions. Doug is absolutely right that this is a logical end product of the guidelines movement, despite our sincere "oh, no, not really"s to judges, and, in my almost dozen years in the field now, I've been seeing more and more momentum in that direction. I'm a strong advocate of producing better info for sentencing decisions, but as a means to differentiate and tailor sentences rather than blanding them out to a few key (and usually inadequate) variables. Nevertheless, I'm uneasy about where even that might lead, given pressures for uniformity, eliminating disparity, and controlling costs. I don't think we're ultimately going to be given an easy "either-or" on this. It will take cautious and open minds dealing directly with the question to balance this "mcdonaldization" of sentencing with our traditional values of due process and justice. We cannot simply leave it to policymakers pressured by budgets, headlines, and ambitions, or China's present may someday be ours. . . . Crime and Consequences has a couple of quick news notes, pointing to a NJ study on the costs of capital cases (about $11 m. there) and comparisons to other states and also a reference to that VA castration story I cited yesterday (which should pique your attention if you missed it). . . . Peggy Ritchie at NIC's blog, Corrections Community, has a couple of informative posts up, one a very link-rich piece on working with homeless released offenders and the other pointing to the recent SAMHSA release of its annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Don't let registering with the site turn you off.

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