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Sentencing by the Numbers

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Devlin Barrett reports at WSJ Law Blog:

Attorney General Eric Holder warned Friday that a new generation of data-driven criminal justice programs could adversely affect poor and minority groups, saying such efforts need to be studied further before they are used to sentence suspects.

In a speech in Philadelphia to a gathering of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mr. Holder cautioned that while such data tools hold promise, they also pose potential dangers.

"By basing sentencing decisions on static factors and immutable characteristics--like the defendant's education level, socioeconomic background, or neighborhood--they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society," Mr. Holder told the defense lawyers. Criminal sentences, he said, "should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place."
I have disagreed with and criticized Mr. Holder at times, sometimes strongly, but he's right on this.  The sentence for a criminal offense should depend on the crime the defendant chose to commit and the crimes he has chosen to commit in the past.  That is justice.

See also today's News Scan and the story linked there.

1 Comment

How is this any different from using the models to determine parole eligibility? You get the same result. If one of the primary purposes of incarceration is the incapacitation of criminals, then why wouldn't you use future dangerousness to determine sentencing?

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