This Week’s MTG on 3-Strike Laws (10/17/9)

Great news!  An old friend of mine who is now a public defender here in San Diego said he would come to our meeting.  Jeff defends felons and knows three strikes-related stuff from the inside.

Here are some links related to 3-strikes and crfime policy.

1.  An awesome primer on this topic (with FAQ and ideas for solutions) from Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
1a.  NEWWho’s in our prisons?
2.  Article on the coming “beyond mass-incarceration era” of crime policy.
3.  An impassioned plea (with facts!) to reform mandatory mminimum laws
4.  America’s prison problem, from Slate Magazine.
5.  12-page pdf Report on California’s staggering prison problems.
6.  A new book on the future of criminal justice policy, for your future in-depth reading needs.

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3 responses

  1. I’m trying to find out Amnesty’s position on
    3-strikes laws. I’m pretty sure we are against them.

  2. Here is part of the AI policy on “disproportionate punishment”:

    2. What is manifestly disproportionate punishment?

    Prohibitions on disproportionate punishment are concerned with the quantity of a punishment that is considered per se admissible (e.g., imprisonment or a fine). This is different from a concern to forbid certain types of punishment that are considered per se inadmissible (e.g., torture or the death penalty). A disproportionate punishment is one in which the quantity of punishment is too great (or too small) in relation to the offence and the particular circumstances of the case.

    There is no generally accepted definition of “manifestly disproportionate punishment.” The principle of proportionality of penalties – according to which penalties imposed upon conviction must be proportionate in their severity to the gravity of the offence and to the degree of responsibility and the personal circumstances of the offender – is, however, generally recognised by criminal law. It is widely considered to be a basic requirement of fairness, having roots in the respect for human dignity, in the rule of law, and in the protection of citizens against arbitrariness in the administration of justice.

    Although widely recognised, the concept of proportionality is not an exact one. To describe a sentence as disproportionate is to assert that it lies outside the normal and acceptable boundaries of proportionality, but these boundaries may not be easy to establish and to assess. In particular, the relationship between the seriousness of the offence and the severity of the penalty differ in diverse social and cultural contexts. The same is true in relation to the relative seriousness of different types of offence. Indeed, there are many and varied activities which are criminal offences in some jurisdictions and entirely legal in others (e.g., consuming alcohol; using recreational drugs; consensual sex at the age of 15; holocaust-denial), and others where the penalties vary enormously.

    Nonetheless, there are certain elements that must always be taken into account when assessing the proportionality of a penalty: the harm done or risked, the culpability of the offender, any relevant aggravating and mitigating factors. When a punishment is termed “manifestly disproportionate,” it is because one or more of these elements have been ignored, leading to a punishment which is far stronger (or weaker) than one normally administered for similar offences. “Normal” is, however, a very parochial concept – when a government introduces “zero tolerance” policies towards some activities, for instance, the penalties for those activities are often much greater than previously, and in some cases intentionally disproportionate in order to act as a deterrent.

  3. This has nothing to do with three-strikes,
    but I thought this was of interest in connection with an earlier program about extra-solar system planets:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/science/space/17planet.html?ref=global-home

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