Projects: Federal Sentencing Reporter
Vera and the Federal Sentencing Reporter share an approach to policy change that relies on information, analytical examination, and innovation. Rare among scholarly journals, the Federal Sentencing Reporter focuses—in its authorship and readership—on academics as well as practitioners. In its pages, conversations take place among judges, lawyers, policymakers, and scholars. The publication is an intellectual resource that people in the field turn to for solutions and that academics rely on to propose, learn about, and discuss new ideas. Each issue offers in-depth analysis on a wide range of topics related to sentencing policies and practices.
The Federal Sentencing Reporter is published five times a year. For each issue, Vera posts on its web site the “Editor’s Observations” (a regular feature that highlights the themes of the issue), a selected article, and the table of contents. Other articles, subscription services, and archives are available through University of California Press.
Volume: 25, Number: 5
Examining the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Latest Federal Sentencing Reports
Excerpted from the Editors’ Observation: “Hot-spot policing” has proven to be an effective modern crime reduction strategy. Crime mapping technologies and other forms of data analyses now enable police forces to identify crime hot spots and then invest in focused interventions to improve public safety. Unfortunately, as the materials in this issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter suggest, adopting a “hot-spot” approach to modern federal sentencing reform may be challenging. Sentencing data can often prove harder to collect and interpret than crime data, which creates difficulties in identifying accurately what are (and are not) critical sentencing “hot spots” in modern federal law and practice.
This FSR issue prompts consideration of these matters through its focus on the findings and recommendations in two massive new research reports that the U.S. Sentencing Commission published in early 2013. These two reports—one concerning the post-Booker federal sentencing system in general, the other concerning the operation and application of the child pornography guidelines—identify what the Commission considers problem areas in the operation of the federal sentencing system and suggest means to address them. But other materials in this Issue concerning these reports—including a set of original commentary from researchers and practitioners, as well as a lengthy letter from the Department of Justice to the Commission—highlight challenges posed by efforts to respond effectively to data driven assessments of the functioning (and perceived dysfunctioning) of the post-Booker federal sentencing system. The primary goal of this FSR issue is to facilitate a better understanding of the nature and limitations of the new data and recommendations appearing in the USSC’s two new reports.
Can the Federal Criminal Justice System Effectively Identify and Respond to Modern Sentencing “Hot Spots”?
Douglas A. Berman, Robert J. Watkins/Proctor and Gamble Professor of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Turning off the Spigot: How Sentencing Safety Valves can Help States Protect Public Safety and Save Money
Molly Gill, Government Affairs Counsel, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
This article looks at state “safety valve” statutes that allow a judge to bypass an existing mandatory minimum and impose a different sentence where a mandatory minimum is not appropriate. Detailing the rise in correctional spending and prison populations as well as corresponding studies on the ineffectiveness of mandatory minimum laws, this report recommends reforming the laws that impose lengthy mandatory sentences on low level offenders. The report outlines how a safety valve statute works and includes examples from federal implementation of a safety valve for drug offenders, which resulted in approximately 25 percent of drug offenders receiving waived mandatory minimum sentences. Cognizant of the political realities of a full scale repeal of mandatory minimums, individual state efforts to partially repeal mandatory minimums are discussed. Some state efforts, like the federal statute, apply only to drug offenses; but others apply to person or weapons offenses or, in the case of a state like Montana, cover a wide range of violent and nonviolent offenses. Finally, the report provides the federal safety valve statute, supplies examples of state safety valve statutes that apply to a range of crimes, and sets out a model safety valve statute.
Other articles in this issue
(available through University of California Press)
The 2012 U.S.S.C. Booker Report’s Characterization of the Penn State Studies: Setting the Record Straight
Jeffery T. Ulmer, Professor of Sociology and Crime, Law and Justice, The Pennsylvania State University and Michael Light, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Purdue University
The Commission’s Legislative Agenda to Restore Mandatory Guidelines
Amy Baron-Evans, Sentencing Resource Counsel, Federal Public and Community Defenders and Thomas Hillier, Federal Public Defender, Western District of Washington
The Commission Defends an Ailing Hypothesis: Does Judicial Discretion Increase Demographic Disparity?
Paul Hofer, Policy Analyst, Sentencing Resource Counsel Project, Federal Public and Community Defenders
Did Booker Increase Disparity? Why the Evidence is Unpersuasive
Sonja Starr, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
Department of Justice Letter to the USSC on the Child Pornography Report
Anne Gannon, National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction