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Even if you have never read the journal Federal Sentencing Reporter (FSR), I urge you to have a look at the October issue. Earlier this year, the journal’s editors invited Vera to plan and coordinate a special edition—serendipitously, the invitation came just as we began celebrating our 50th anniversary.
As guest editor, Alison Shames, of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections, has aptly summarized the theme of the resulting issue in the Editor’s Observations: “Sentencing Within Sentencing.”
Many practices in the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and immigration systems impose additional punishments—not only on defendants, but also on families, communities, and crime victims—beyond those that are explicit in the sentence. Solitary confinement and court fines are but two examples. Other “collateral sentences” include detention of those who cannot afford bail, sexual assault and other violence in jails and prisons, and restrictions on housing and employment for formerly incarcerated men and women.
Back in 1966, Vera’s cofounder Herb Sturz wrote, “[We] start with the hypothesis that when the need for change is documented, agencies will or can be persuaded to experiment, especially if outside help is provided. We are aware that at the start we don’t have the answers, and we try to stay away from formula recommendations.”
The articles in the new issue of FSR, which include archival Vera documents as well as work by current staff, emphasize research and evaluation, look ahead to areas ripe for reform, and collectively reflect the spirit of our earliest work. A fitting way to celebrate 50 years of innovation.