Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CS Monitor: Hold Your Horses!

PardonPower recently noted that "reporting regarding Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the fatal shooting of four police officers in Seattle, is providing excellent material for understanding the dangers of the anecdote ..."

Today, an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor echos our concern. The Monitor notes the "extraordinary nature" of the case is "reason for caution" because "high-profile crimes have a tendency to rank emotion over reason when it comes to the criminal justice system." The piece notes "there's little political downside to letting prisoner appeals pile up," but:
But Huckabee is also right. Redemption is possible – given the right cases, the right preparation, and adequate support once an inmate is back on the outside. And the justice system is not always just – from cookie-cutter mandatory minimum sentences to inadequate defense representation in capital cases.
The Monitor notes we are the "prison capital of the world" but shrinking budgets are forcing corrections officials reconsider prison reforms. Among other things, "they're reducing the sentences of nonviolent offenders, and diverting early nonviolent offenders into rehab programs. They're granting more parole – but focusing their monitoring on high-risk parolees." But
... the risk of a high-profile case such as Clemmons's is that it will bring a backlash leading to a wrong policy. That it will continue to discourage clemency, for instance, or that it will somehow slow the momentum toward reform.
PardonPower agrees with the Monitor that we should all be careful about "drawing broad conclusions from an exceptional case." See full editorial here.

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