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Dear student 1 (put real names – instead of student 1),
Just as you indicate, the sentencing reforms were undertaken to eradicate racial segregation in the judicial system, a point also supported by Spohn (2004) and Tyler (2017). Before the reforms, judgements were effectively affected by one’s racial orientation. However, despite the reforms that our grandfathers initiated, not much has been achieved in terms of creating fairness in sentencing (Miller, 2005). It is because of this that in 2017, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act was introduced in the US senate (Tyler, 2017). Per se, the main intension of the act is to guarantee that both whites and blacks are treated equally in the courts – equal application of the law (Miller, 2005; Spohn, 2004). You suggest that for the same sentences to be offered for the same offenders notwithstanding their location and race, sentencing reforms should be unified. I believe the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act that was introduced in 2017 is actually a move in the direction you suggested.
Thanks for your post.
Hello student 2,
I really like your contribution. It is true that sentencing is one of the most contentious courtroom decisions particularly because judges may offer different judgments for two different people who have convicted of the same crime. The selective application of laws can partly be attributed to the fact that most courtrooms are dominated by whites who are likely to harshly judge the blacks (Harte, 2016). This is the reason why a black man convicted of rape may be sentenced to 15 years imprisonment while a white may get a more favorable sentence of 2 years.
However, from your explication, you suggest that having more minorities in the judicial system will help eliminate selective application of justice. I differ with this. Firstly, we should have a judiciary that applies the law non-selectively. According to Mauer (2002), we should not bank on having every minority community in the judicial system just as a way of eradicating discrimination in sentencing. Having a law that guides judges on what sentences to give to different crimes should be the best way to solve the issue just as Pease and Wasik (1987) suggested over 3 decades ago.
- Harte, J. (2016). U.S. senators release final sentencing reform bill. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-justice-reform/u-s-senators-release-final-sentencing-reform-bill-idUSKCN0XP2PI
- Mauer, M. (2002). State Sentencing Reforms: Is the “Get Tough” Era Coming to a Close? Federal Sentencing Reporter, 15(1), 50-52. doi:10.1525/fsr.2002.15.1.50
- Pease, K., & Wasik, M. (1987). Sentencing reform: Guidance or guidelines? Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Miller, M. L. (2005). Sentencing Reform Reform Through Sentencing Information Systems in The Future of Imprisonment. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.404980
- Spohn, C. (2014). Twentieth-Century Sentencing Reform Movement: Looking Backward, Moving Forward. Criminology & Public Policy, 13(4), 535-545. doi:10.1111/1745-9133.12095
- Tyler, J. L. (2017). A Glimmer of Hope for US Criminal Justice Reform. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/05/glimmer-hope-us-criminal-justice-reform