Saturday, April 21, 2007

Around the Blogs, Saturday, April 21, 2007

  • Been gone a couple of days and missed some good stuff. Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy found a very interesting article on analyzing the factors associated with the growth of our prison populations which nails some of the problems with the current research. He also finds another conservative repudiation of the "one size fits all" prison approach that we've been using for decades now and catches this press release from NY's gov that seems to put the state on the path toward sentencing guidelines that it dumped on years back. Here's the good part of the release from my perspective: "Reports of the Commission shall include, but not be limited to, an evaluation of the impact that existing sentences have had on length of incarceration, the impact of early release, the impact of existing sentences on the length of community supervision, recommended options for the use of alternatives to incarceration, and an analysis of the fiscal impact of the Commission's recommendations." This is where commissions need to be going and even states without commissions, those considering sentencing info systems, or just contracting with researchers to get these studies done. We have been sentencing since the beginning of this country's history and we still can't tell you beyond anecdotes and feelings what the best sentence for a given type of offender with a given offense is most likely going to be. NY seems to be following in the path that CO (and maybe VT from talks I've had with folks there) has chosen in seeking these answers. We need to link sentences and offenders to recidivism and subsequent offenses and start looking for patterns. My personal opinion is that there will still be sufficient latitude and ambiguity to allow discretion a major role. But the fact that in 2007 we can even have a proposal to look at "impact that existing sentences have had on length of incarceration" that is not pro forma and common tells far more about sentencing policy, commissions, and guidelines than those of us in corr sent really should be wanting to say.
  • Speaking of VT, Real Cost of Prisons has a good update on how the state is mobilizing to deal with its growing prison space problem. We sometimes forget that the low incarceration states still face the same questions everyone else does about the tradeoff of needed resources versus the level of public safety actually bought by more prisons compared to other options. It's odd that the state's new sentencing commission wasn't mentioned here, though.
  • Empirical Legal Studies recommends and gives info on Survey Monkey for those of you considering web-based surveys. I've used it in offices in the past and had good luck. Be interested in stories that you may have good or bad, and ELS probably would be, too.
  • And Grits for Breakfast has a usual insightful post on something churches could do to live up to the Christian admonition to care for both prisoners and children: reach out to the kids of incarcerated parents and offer church camps for them. Yes, yes, indoctrination, proselytization, I know, I know. But folks, the alternative looks so much better???

1 comment:

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