Fairness in Sentencing

The Due Process model has added many procedures to the criminal justice system that are designed to ensure fairness in criminal proceedings. This week’s discussion will focus on fairness in sentencing.

When deciding on an appropriate sentence, a judge must consider many factors, including the law, the rights of the victim, and any special circumstances that might influence the final sentence.

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  • Analyze whether judges should be required to sentence all offenders equally for the same crime. For instance, should a homeless person receive the same sentence for shoplifting as a person with assets and income?
  • What role, if any, does the victim play in the sentencing process? Analyze whether the impact of the crime on the victim should be a consideration when determining his or her sentence.
  • Consider “habitual offender” laws which increase the punishment for certain repeated felonies. Analyze whether it is fair to punish an offender’s third crime more harshly than the first, if the crimes were the same. Could it be considered double-jeopardy to add to today’s sentence because of a previous crime—which has already been punished?
  • Consider the disparity between the sentence for possessing or selling crack cocaine and the sentence for possessing or selling the powder form of cocaine. At the federal level, crack is punished far more harshly than powder. Analyze the arguments for and against this disparity.
 
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