Juveniles make up a relatively small percentage of the federal prison population. President Obama's decision to forbid the placement of those juveniles into solitary confinement does not affect a large number of people. It does, however, contribute to the growing understanding of the damage done by this type of confinement. Several states have also begun changing their policies regarding the use of solitary confinement.
A report using data from the National Survey of Children's Health helps put into perspective the full impact of our criminal justice system's fondness for incarceration. The research, conducted by Child Trends, shows that one out of every 14 children has had a parent locked up. In total, more than five million children in this country have had that experience. The report is entitled Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children, and contains a number of eye openers about one of the hidden costs of mass incarceration.
One of the popular arguments you hear against eliminating harsh sentencing guidelines is that crime rates will go up. This argument both defies reality and misses the point. Imprisoning someone is an effective way to deter a wide range of conduct. A person in prison is deterred from making a living. A person in prison is deterred from being an effective parent or supportive spouse. A person in prison is deterred from contributing much of anything to society. What long prison sentences do not deter is similar crime committed by other people. Studies are very clear on that.
Perhaps lost in the celebration of today's victory for marriage equality is a decision of monumental importance to federal criminal defense practitioners. Today, in Johnson v. United States, the United States Supreme Court invalidated the "residual clause" of the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Polls indicate that the majority of Americans support the reform of our criminal justice system. Rather than the traditional "tough on crime" stance that politicians felt the need to take in order to win election, many have now indicated a willingness to pull back. Mass incarceration has been the unstated policy here for decades. Now, with record numbers of people behind bars, many for nonviolent offenses, people have begun to wonder if that policy is wise. Now that public opinion has shifted, what other obstacles must be overcome to solve what is perhaps the nation's most pressing problem?
In a monumental victory before the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Mark Tyrell Fowlkes, acting as his own attorney successfully argued that the reduced mandatory minimum sentences for crack offenses created by the Fair Sentening Act of 2010 (FSA) applied to his 2008 conviction for Distribution and Possession with Intent to distribute crack cocaine.
In a widely anticipated decision the U.S. Sentencing Commission today voted unanimously to retroactively apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 ("FSA") crack cocaine sentencing guidelines amendments.
Yesterday in Pepper v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when a criminal defendant's original sentence has been successfully appealed, the re-sentencing court may consider the "post-sentencing rehabilitation" of the defendant in imposing the new sentence.