Copyright (c) 2005 The Columbia Law Review
Columbia Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: SENTENCING: WHAT'S AT STAKE FOR THE STATES? KEYNOTE ADDRESS: LESSONS OF A SENTENCING REFORMER FROM THE DEEP SOUTH
Tulane Law Review
105 Colum. L. Rev. 943
William H. Pryor Jr.*
At both the federal and state levels of government, there is an ongoing revolution in the reform of systems for sentencing criminal offenders. This revolution is about much more than the latest developments in the federal sentencing system. At the state level, perhaps the clearest sign of this revolution is the current work of the American Law Institute in revising the Model Penal Code as it relates to sentencing. As Professor Kevin Reitz, the Reporter for that project, wrote in his initial report,
Few in the 1960s[, when the Model Penal Code was adopted,] could have foreseen the weakening of rehabilitation as the general justificatory aim of punishment, the invention in the 1970s of sentencing commissions and guidelines, the abolition of parole release authority in 16 jurisdictions, the new ethos of experimentation with "intermediate punishments" that would gather momentum in the 1980s, or the unprecedented growth in incarcerated populations through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. 1
Understanding this revolution requires study of several competing forces of political, economic, technological, and legal change. Among the political forces shaping this revolution have been the war on drugs and corresponding mandatory minimum sentences; the victim rights movement and the corresponding disaffection toward parole, credits for prison release, and wide judicial discretion; and the grass roots movement (often inspired by religious faith) for restorative justice, community corrections, and drug treatment as alternatives to incarceration. The overriding economic force in this revolution has been the huge cost of ...
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