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September 30, 2003

Ashcroft's Punishment Obsession

Attorney General John Ashcroft really, really wants to hurt people, but he doesn't seem to care about the practical effects of his obsession with harsh punishment. I didn't have to start law school to see that federal minimum sentences can be very problematic, and that trying to limit the judiciary's discretion in sentencing could dramatically change our criminal justice system for the worse. Stephen Saltzburg, a professor from my very own school, sums it up best:

"Law and order, tough on crime, tough on sentencing is still the popular way to go," he said. "It doesn't make it right."

This is why academic debates about just punishment are so frustrating; it doesn't matter if lots of law professors, law students, judges and even politicians understand that excessive sentences aren't good for society. So long as the majority of Americans believe that "tough on crime" means more prisons with more prisoners serving longer sentences, we'll continue to hold the honor of being the most punitive people in the Western world. Ah, and what an honor that is.

Man, I better go read my CrimLaw...

Posted September 30, 2003 06:11 AM | general politics law school

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