Thursday, July 20, 2006

Great (and Very Useful) Critique of the Sentencing Guidelines

In the context of a letter to the Sentencing Commission regarding this year's Sentencing Guideline amendment cycle, the Federal Defenders have produced a comprehensive and persuasive critique of the Guidelines' many egregious shortcomings and the Commission's persistent failure to correct them.

In a lengthy memorandum backed up by both by case law and data (much of it from the Commission's own research), the Defenders address, among other things, the procedural unfairness and inadequacy of the Guidelines, the major structural flaws in the career offender, relevant conduct, drug and immigration guidelines, as well as the Commission's failure to act on Congressional directives to provide alternatives to incarceration and reduced punishment for first offenders and its failure to take into account or permit consideration of a number of factors, such as the defendant's age, family circumstances, and employment that are directly linked to a reduced risk of recidivism.

The Defenders then propose fair, commonsense fixes for each of the problems identified. Though the letter is directed at the Sentencing Commission, many of the proposals contained in the letter can easily be adapted into case-specific arguments for variance to present to individual sentencing courts. It is a gold-mine of ideas for defense counsel looking for powerful, data-driven sentencing arguments.

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