Guns, Crime Control, and a Systemic Approach to Federal Sentencing

David Patton

Federal Defenders of New York

March 31, 2011

Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 32, 2011

Recent scholarship about the role of sentencing reform in reducing high levels of incarceration has focused on evidence-based, offender-specific solutions, such as how to better assess offenders’ risk of recidivism and their amenability to diversionary programs. This Article proposes a new, systemic approach. In particular, it suggests that in cases where the primary rationale for steep sentences is crime reduction, as opposed to retributive notions of harm and blameworthiness, judges ought to engage in an evidence-based examination of how the government is making “use” of the sentences it seeks in its law enforcement efforts. And where the government’s efforts fall short, so too should the sentences. The proposal would not only result in more rational and just sentences, it also has the potential to enhance public safety.

Although law enforcement and prosecutorial strategy have conventionally been viewed as the exclusive territory of the Executive Branch, this Article contends that judges are in fact appropriate and competent institutional actors to examine them. This Article explores these issues in the context of the federal government’s most formal and direct intervention into the prosecution of street crime, Projects “Triggerlock” and “Safe Neighborhoods,” which, in the name of crime control, have resulted in a ten-fold increase in the number of federal “felon-in-possession” prisoners over the past twenty years.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: federal sentencing, sentencing, criminal law, criminal procedure, criminology, firearms, guns, crime control, felon-in-possession,

JEL Classification: K14

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Date posted: July 26, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Patton, David, Guns, Crime Control, and a Systemic Approach to Federal Sentencing (March 31, 2011). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 32, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1895666

Contact Information

David Patton (Contact Author)
Federal Defenders of New York ( email )
One Pierrepont Plaza, 16th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
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