Criminal justice reform, in its many manifestations, is a difficult and controversial issue. Some “believe that our current sentencing regime is unfair, that too much discretion has been removed from judges, that the pendulum has swung too far in terms of imposing harsh sentences, and that increased incarceration has led to other inequities in our society.” Others believe that increased incarceration and harsh sentences have taken some very dangerous people off of the streets and have resulted in dramatic decreases in crime, and that, if such sentences are cut, crime may well increase to the detriment of society. Some believe that there are too many crimes with weak (or non-existent) criminal intent standards that result in morally blameless individuals and small entities being branded for life with a scarlet letter “C” for “criminal.” Others believe that providing more robust criminal intent standards will enable others, particularly high-level corporate executives, to avoid the consequences of their actions, which can pose health and safety hazards to the environment and the public at large.
Both of these perspectives are reasonable; people of good will disagree passionately about these issues. Yet, there is no question that those who favor criminal justice reform are making progress at the state level and, haltingly, at the federal level.
**The full text of this article can be found here.
This piece first appeared in the Texas Review of Law & Politics.