Prof: Shun “Knee-Jerk, Quick Fix” Sentence Change


A month after the Supreme Court upended the sentencing system for federal crimes, U.S. judges across the country are struggling to navigate their newfound discretion amid thousands of appeals, widespread confusion, and sharp scrutiny from critics on guard for “soft” punishments, the Baltimore Sun reports. “Federal sentencing policy is not some abstract matter,” said Daniel P. Collins, a former associate deputy U.S. attorney general. “Common sense suggests that if you lock up criminals for longer periods of time and lock up the very worst for very long periods of time, there will be less crime.”

The American Bar Association and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have suggested a yearlong waiting period before any legislative changes are considered, saying the time is needed to gather detailed statistics about federal sentences in the aftermath of the high court ruling. “Basically, the kind of knee-jerk, quick-fix solutions all have problems,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor and member of the bar association committee that proposed the 12-month waiting period. “We were very concerned in the ABA about this rush to judgment – let’s fix this, when we don’t even know yet if it’s broken.” Meanwhile, “everybody who is serving a federal sentence is trying to figure out whether they can get some relief,” said James Wyda, the federal public defender for Maryland. “We’ve been bombarded with calls.”


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