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Judge Regrets Sentencing Teen to Life Without Parole

Speaking of harsh penalties, how’s 241 years in prison for a 16-year-old boy? Well, it happened to this boy twenty years ago. The judge who sentenced him told him he’d die in prison. She told him he wouldn’t even be eligible for parole until 2091, when no one he knew would be alive, anyway. One can Read More

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Two Sides of the Same Coin

It’s not always easy to weigh the scales of justice. Sometimes, like in the two stories from last week, the system treats people too harshly, and it ruins their lives. Other times, though, someone’s unfairly blamed for not being harsh enough. That’s the premise of this piece by a former chief criminal judge who was vilified for setting someone free without Read More

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Two Tears

Two true stories, that is, of people on a sex-offender registry. The first. Today, she’s a 34-year-old mother of two great kids. Back then, she was a teenager herself when she slept with a boy on the night of her 19th birthday party. The boy was mature enough to pursue her but, as it happened, he was 14. His Read More

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Lifetime Sex-Offender Registration for Kids

Do you think sex-offender registration is punishment? What if it’s for life? What if it’s for a 12-year-old boy? Last week, the California Court of Appeal ruled that it’s not punishment to call a kid a sex offender for life because of something he did when he was twelve years old. According to the court, the boy’s early years Read More

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If Prison Walls Could Talk

Here’s an interesting story about a just-released report on prison reform, with a kick: it’s written by the prisoners. The authors are five inmates, all first-time offenders, who have spent a combined 95 years in the Texas prison system. They write from their own experiences and those of others, but many of their observations apply across Read More

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Double, Triple Whammies and Rewards

Speaking of the False Claims Act, get ready to buckle up. Starting Monday, an interim final rule by the U.S. Justice Department will nearly double the statute’s civil monetary penalties for each false claim. The minimum penalty will go from $5,500 to $10,781, and the maximum penalty will go from $11,000 to $21,563. For defendants, this means you’re looking at a Read More

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Parole and Realignment in California

Want to know about parole in California? Well, it’s complicated because the law changes all the time in all kinds of ways, and it recently changed in a big way on October 1, 2011 when the Criminal Justice Realignment Act went into effect. Actually, the new law kind of changed everything. The purpose was to reduce Read More

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Our Ballooning Sex-Offender Registries

California’s not the only state having trouble with its sex-offender-registration regime. In New York, the prisons are holding people past their release dates because they can’t find anywhere to live, and nearly 95% of the homeless shelters are off-limits, too. The problem is that we don’t pass these laws on the basis of reason and evidence but Read More

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Pope Francis Calls for the End of LWOP Sentences

While California still tolerates sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles, and Massachusetts has ruled them out entirely, there is variation nationwide in the use of life sentences—with or without the possibility of parole—in all cases and for all people. An interesting, multi-state report by The Sentencing Project identifies a total of 160,000 people as serving life sentences as of 2012, Read More

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Should We Ever Sentence Children to Life Without the Possibility of Parole?

What’s wrong with possibilities? Earlier this month, the California Court of Appeal held that a trial court could impose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (or LWOP) on a 16-year-old boy even though the court could not rule out the possibility of rehabilitation. He’s older now, but the boy was just sixteen years old when he committed Read More

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