Category Archives: Role of Data

Massachusetts Trial Court Offers Evidence-Based Best Sentencing Practices

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The Massachusetts Trial Court departments that have a major role in sentencing have produced sentencing best practices documents. This is a significant achievement. Here is an article describing the key Best Practice Principles. They are the product of more than a year of hard work by broad-based committees and are extraordinary data-driven consensus best practices recommendations for judges and practitioners.  Here is the Superior Court PDF including the Best Practice Principles and Commentary, and the website for all of the documents.

Cautions on Data-Driven Sentencing

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This article by Cecilia Klingele of the University of Wisconsin Law School in the Notre Dame Law Review cautions against over-reliance on metrics and cost-benefit analyses within the criminal justice system, as she writes:

“Talk of data and efficiencies and actuarial tools is cool and detached, and can rise
above some of the heated partisan rancor that has so long defined and complicated
conversations about criminal justice. The problem is that depersonalization
is just that. It divorces even those implementing reform from
confronting the underlying reason why reform is necessary: not because
prison is costly, but because prisons are filled with too many people locked in
cages for years at a time, not infrequently for crimes that only a few short
decades ago would have gone unpunished or drawn a substantially less severe
sentence. That is an uncomfortable truth. By talking about money and data,
many reformers hope to avoid these hard conversations and jump straight to
solving the perceived problems of an overly harsh and insufficiently rehabilitative
criminal justice system. But there are no shortcuts to culture change.”

Click here for the full article.

Public Health Approach to Incarceration

121212.jpgThis is an interesting article from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty. It gives a public health approach to incarceration, one that is a bit different than those of us in criminal justice system are used to. Here are some quotes:

“. . . Research also shows that even after accounting for material hardships occurring before imprisonment, paternal incarceration strongly increases material hardships for the incarcerated father’s family, defined as experiencing things like having the electricity turned off or not having enough money to make rent.”

“. . . Even when controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and familial characteristics, parental incarceration is independently linked to a number or poor health outcomes for children, including learning disabilities, behavioral or conduct problems, and developmental delays. . .”

Incarceration prevention includes problem-solving courts and evidence-based probation and parole including the HOPE program.

“Use more nuanced sentencing strategies . . . revise policy decisions [imposing mandatory minimums and elimination of parole] . . . [reduce} the potential punishment of drug offenders and [make it retroactive], and [commute sentences].

Here’s the full article.