The Smart Sentencing

    1)  "Using Prisons in a World of Just Deserts" - a DVD of a 2-hour presentation to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee, which visited the Pacific Northwest in May, 2008, to gather suggestions for coping with an accelerating prison growth rate in the UK. 
    The presentation covers many of the tactics used by various states to cope with prison growth, including the merely regulatory as well as “evidence based” attempts to allocate correctional resources.  The main thrust of the presentation, however, is that no substantial improvement is possible until we civilize the role of just deserts.   In spite of laudable efforts at the periphery of criminal justice to divert offenders from crime – from treatment and early disposition courts to post-prison reintegration efforts – even the most progressive “guideline” approaches allocate the bulk of prison and jail resources according to more or less ordered just deserts.  The impact is that accomplishing “proportional punishment” is accepted as sufficient performance; we avoid any meaningful accountability for outcomes, for utilitarian pursuits like crime reduction, or even for the legitimate functions that punishment is supposed to serve.  Just deserts serves as a destructive excuse for pursuing no social purpose with any level of responsibility.
    I argue that the legitimate functions of just deserts need to be unpacked from vague notions of proportional punishment, and held to the same standards that we should apply to utilitarian pursuits.  Just as we should demand the best evidence of effectiveness we can obtain to justify dispositions (and investments of public resources) in custody, programs, alternatives, and treatment in the name of crime reduction, so should we insist on the best evidence we can to pursue such purposes as public trust and confidence, obviating vigilantism and private retribution, serving actual victim needs, and promoting pro-social values that presumably prevent crime: respect for the persons, property and rights of others.
 The Oregon State Bar has approved the presentation for 2.0 general MCLE credits [program authorization #2411*39] when combined with the following materials:  Comments to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee
Lord Carter’s Review of Prisons, The NCSC Sentencing Attitudes Survey: A Report on the Findings, [Pew] One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008.

    2) "Pursuing Evidence-based Harm Reduction in Sentencing" (University of Missouri School of Law, June 26, 2006)(RT 59:46) - a DVD video of a presentation with integrated slide show on principles of evidence-based sentencing, on the occasion of the introduction of Missouri's risk assessment-based sentencing tools.   Introduced by Missouri Chief Justice Michael Wolff, this presentation offers a brief history of the development of modern competing sentencing theories; the issues raised by pending efforts to revise model penal code sentencing provisions away from public safety; trends in modern corrections, penology, and criminology towards evidence based practices; analysis of the role and debate about risk assessment; and descriptions of current practical innovations supporting smart sentencing, including sentencing support tools.

    3) An Adobe PDF version of a 2004 presentation summarizing the arguments for smarter sentencing and briefly illustrating sentencing support tools and other smart sentencing innovations can be viewed on the web from here:

The on-line .pdf version

NOTE: adjust your Adobe Reader to display a full page, and use the Adobe Reader buttons to advance the slides. This on-line version has no sound track.  Return here with your browser's "back" button.

     4) A self-presenting slide show demonstrating sentencing support software and its underlying rationale is available upon request.  This version is continually updated, and amounts to a narrated lecture that illustrates the tools as they are now in use in Multnomah County, Oregon. The presentation requires a Windows 98SE platform or higher (ME, 2000, XP, NT, etc.,  all work); XGA screen resolution (1024 x 768); and a sound card.  If you don't have a sound card, the CD also contains a text file script and a version without audio.
    The presentation is created in Corel Presentations, which does not require that any particular software be loaded on your computer.  Users can pause and navigate among the slides by right-clicking on the screen.
  To obtain presentations 1, 2, or 3,, e-mail your request and your snail mail address to Michael Marcus, and you will receive a CD-ROM (No. 4) or DVD (Nos. 1 and 2).  The CD also includes the Multnomah Judges website, and the Sentencing Support user manual.

    Feel free to make any use of these presentations you wish, and to copy and distribute them as you feel appropriate -- but please repeat the attribution of DVD No. 2 to the University of Michigan School of Law "copied with permission."  DVD No. 1 was prepared by the Oregon Judicial Department, but does not necessarily reflect views other than my own.