WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Sunday, June 13, 2010

OUR SENTENCING POLICIES

In the comments section someone wanted to know where we got our information on the rate of incarceration in the US versus other countries. The title of the post links to the NY Times article that has current statistics.

In our view the statistics in this article support our contention that the sentencing system in the US is severely broken and needs to be repaired.

From the NY Times:

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63.

THE US IS A ROGUE STATE WHEN IT COMES TO SENTENCING.

It used to be that Europeans came to the United States to study its prison systems. They came away impressed.

“In no country is criminal justice administered with more mildness than in the United States,” Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured American penitentiaries in 1831, wrote in “Democracy in America.”

No more.

Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror,” James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. “Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons.”

Prison sentences here have become “vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared,” Michael H. Tonry, a leading authority on crime policy, wrote in “The Handbook of Crime and Punishment.”

Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States “a rogue state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western approach.”

THE US SENDS MORE PEOPLE CONVICTED OF NON VIOLENT CRIMES TO PRISON THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD :

People who commit nonviolent crimes in the rest of the world are less likely to receive prison time and certainly less likely to receive long sentences. The United States is, for instance, the only advanced country that incarcerates people for minor property crimes like passing bad checks, Mr. Whitman wrote.

AND THE US LEADS IN LENGHT OF SENTENCES

Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher.

Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.

ELECTION OF JUDGES PLAYS A ROLE IN HIGHER SENTENCES:

Several specialists here and abroad pointed to a surprising explanation for the high incarceration rate in the United States: democracy.

Most state court judges and prosecutors in the United States are elected and are therefore sensitive to a public that is, according to opinion polls, generally in favor of tough crime policies. In the rest of the world, criminal justice professionals tend to be civil servants who are insulated from popular demands for tough sentencing.

SUMMARY

Say what you want, but this much is clear: our criminal justice system sends more people to prison for a longer time than any other nation that employs a "western" style criminal justice system. We are considered a rogue state by most of Europe, and the average length of the average sentence for non violent crimes is truly shocking when considering most judicial systems do not incarcerate criminals for non violent crimes.

Bad news all around, unless you're in the prison industry.

See you in court, trying to make things a little better, one case at a time.

13 comments:

Curious said...

Rumpole,

Assume for a moment that the BP officials knew what they were doing was reckless, that they cut corners and ignored safety warnings, that they lied about their ability to control a leak, that they conspired to keep the federal oversight agencies from knowing what was really going on in their operation, that they knew that they had no way to control a gushing leak or prevent a serious explosion and blow-out, and yet they just didn't care if a potential leak ruined the environment or not, caused employee death or not, so long as the company made money. (I am not necessarily saying that this is what happened, I am just asking you to assume it is so for the sake of this question).

Would a 50 Year--or longer--Sentence be appropriate for them?

Do you believe that so-called "non-violent crimes" never deserve sentences of 50 years or more?

Anonymous said...

Horace
IF we stopped sending people to prison or the goal for drugs the rate of incarceration would drop dramaticly. It is the puritan philosophy that you may lock up sinners that allows people who use un - approved substances for intox to be locked up. The Gov't has a right to lock-up impaired drivers not to tell me what I may impair/intox my self with!!
But Conservative & Republicans forgo their anti-government stance to become puritans and invade my freedom. They like to incarcerate people only getting high. Most are poor folks, also.
HOW WRONG
D. Sisselman

Anonymous said...

maybe we should start to impose the ole' "eye for an eye" and "hand for a theft" type of sentencing....

Anonymous said...

Rump, here's my idea--indeterminate sentencing for most crimes, save violent crimes against persons and recidivists. Make prison a place to work, a place to learn skills. Make it spartan but not inhumane. The better an inmate does, the more he/she does to better him/herself, the quicker he/she is released.

This is not a pefect idea, of course, and is just a rough outline. Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anonymous said...

all that information makes me smile. clearly we are on the right path. If I am going to have to pay for an upkeep of a scum bag, I would rather it be in prison where he or she cannot do more harm in the near term. The only part I do agree with is minor drug sentences. They are too long. But the rest of it? I say we are doing fine.

Anonymous said...

I am a prosecutor, and I could not agree more with your assessment of sentencing. While there is much to discuss on this matter from a practical and a policy standpoint, let me just tell two stories that reflect the depth of the problem.
One time the next-of-kin was pressuring my DC to turn down a defendant's offer to walk into a thirty-year sentence. The case was not good, it was filled with holes that we couldn't explain, and we had already lost on a co-defendant. Finally, we were getting a back-up judge who was a nightmare. I had to threaten to walk away from the case to get her to see reason.
On another occasion I had to convince someone that twenty-five years for a 57-year-old with no priors was adequate even though the attempted murder caused by his fit of jealousy was particularly violent. She had to be convinced that the victim's cannot always determine the execution of our power.
Let's face it, there are times when a prosecutor's character does not equal his/her power in this system.

Anonymous said...

The NYT is your source? I wish I knew who you were so I could laugh in your face.

f/k/a CK

Anonymous said...

I want Rumpole to reveal himself.

Anonymous said...

Or the simple fact is this - many American citizens are horrible in nature. People in other countries have more respect for others property and well being. People in almost any other foreign country don't have a penchant to committ the same vile acts that happen in America.

Anonymous said...

Rump, you raise a lot of good issues. Instead of griping about it, get involved. There are many groups trying to reform the justice system at the state and national level. In Florida, check out the Coalition for Smart Justice, http://www.collinscenter.org/?page=SmartJusticeHome.

BTDT

1:09 am........obviously you don't watch the news, can't read and don't know what's happening in the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

I say make cocaine trafficking a third degree felony with no minimum mandatory, cocaine possession with intent to sell a first degree misdemeanor. Make cocaine possession a second degree misdemeanor. Legalize marijuana and tax it, decriminalizing everything but running growhouses in your home - after all, we want only legitimate businesses selling it who we can tax.

Keep all other "hard" drugs at the levels they are now.

Eliminate min mans on dwelling burglar repeat offenders except ones involving an occupied dwelling.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Sentencing for non-violent crimes in this country is out of control. However, burglary (one of the examples cited in your post) is as close to a violent crime as it gets. Home invasion is among the most frightening things imaginable, and strikes at the heart of peace and stability in society. I would suggest that burglarizing an occupied home is the one crime in America that is UNDER sentenced.