Reforming Federal Sentencing: A Call for Equality-Infused Menschlichkeit
Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Volume 26, No. 2, pp. xi - xxxvi
28 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 2020
This piece, which serves as an Introduction to the Symposium Issue of the Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, addresses both questions of pedagogy and federal sentencing. It starts by highlighting the value of a symposium on federal sentencing as a teaching, research, and advocacy tool before it turns to sentencing reform specifically.
Federal sentencing remains a highly contested area because it raises stark questions of equality and equitable treatment. Sentencing has long been unfair to minority defendants, African Americans in particular, though the guidelines have in part mitigated racial disparities. Still the injustices perpetuated through federal sentencing have reinforced larger racial biases and contributed to ongoing racial stereotyping.
Empirical research and today’s technology can help both decrease race-based differentials and bring about shorter and more rehabilitation- focused sentencing, as long as we have the will to follow their lead. Ultimately, we need to bring compassion, mercy, and Menschlichkeit to sentencing. Criminal defendants are not the “other” but “of us.” Those values need to be part of our legal experience and of legal education lest law become merely an exercise in logic or ideology.
Keywords: federal sentencing, criminal law, sentencing, pedagogy, racial bias, racial disparity, society, compassion, Menschlichkeit, federal sentencing guidelines, teaching, legal education, research, advocacy
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