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News Scan

Federal Prison Population on the Decline: For the first time since 1980, the federal prison population is on the decline.  Andrew Grossman of The Wall Street Journal reports that over the next two years, the federal prison population is expected to decrease by more than 12,000 inmates.  Attorney General Eric Holder is attributing the decline to policies he has implemented that reduced lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for supposedly "non-violent" offenders.  However, some Republicans have also pointed to the fact that harsher punishments were critical to the decline in crime rates over the past two decades.

Convicted Killer Seeks New Trial: The Salvadorian immigrant convicted of murdering political intern Chandra Levy is seeking a new trial.  Michael Doyle of the McClatchy DC reports that Ingmar Guandique was convicted nearly four years ago for the 2001 murder of Levy and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.  Guandique is requesting a new trial based on the claim that the prosecution's star witness was a one-time gang leader with an extensive criminal past, therefore making him a non-credible source of information.  

Judges Utilizing New Tools in Sentencing Decisions: Judges from across the U.S. have begun using risk-evaluation tools when sentencing offenders in hopes of better assessing an individual's likelihood to reoffend.  Joe Pallazzolo of The Wall Street Journal reports that judges consider factors such as an offender's age, gender, prior felony convictions, and the amount of times they have been incarcerated in the past year; offenders are then given a 'score' based on how many risk factors apply to them and judges use the result to determine a proper sentence.  Judges aren't required to use the sentencing tools, but there is evidence showing that they are taking them into account.  Use of demographic factors beyond the defendant's control is controversial.

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