A blue-ribbon panel aims to clean up New York state’s “confounding” sentencing laws, reports the New York Daily News. “The present sentencing laws are a mess,” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman told the newspaper. “They’re like a hodgepodge with no rhyme or reason.” He asked a group of high-powered judges, defense lawyers, and crime victims to do the most far-reaching analysis of state sentences in 40 years. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins will head the Permanent Sentencing Commission for New York State.
One of its missions is to find out whether sentences being meted by the state’s judges serve as a useful deterrent to future crimes. “We don’t know whether the offenders are prepared to live useful lives,” Lippman said. “Are sentences too long or too short?” Said Vance: “Four decades after most of our sentencing laws were passed, it’s time for New York to focus on being smart on crime.” “This will mean longer sentences in some instances, while in others identifying appropriate cases for alternatives to incarceration,” he said. The panel will look into whether alternative sentences can cut the number of defendants sent to state prisons. Lippman favors “truth-in-sentencing” so the public knows exactly how much time a defendant will end up serving behind bars. For instance, some crimes carry a 3-to-9 year sentence – a range that confuses judges and victims alike.