I began my career as a criminal defense lawyer around the same time this country began its “get tough on crime” campaign. It is clear to me that the pendulum has swung much too far in the direction of draconian retribution. Liptak proposes several possible causes for this alarming situation, among them the politicized nature of the criminal justice system. In my experience, each election cycle brings a new clarion call for longer, harsher, and more punitive sentences. The election of prosecutors and judges, and even the politicized process of appointing federal judges, feeds this out-of-control wildfire.Chuck's thoughts reminded me of a trashy post last summer where I bemoaned the over-criminalization of America, starting with my local garbage man. No doubt the rise in potential felony offenses and harsher sentences are symptoms of the politicalization of our justice system. Tough on crime means votes. Tough on crime means job security. Tough on crime means not having to think through society's problems anymore - you simply lock them up or kill them. Beyond this, the public buys into these ideas effecting punishment verdicts and even plea bargaining.
Anyway, I'll leave with one last quote from Chuck:
Until legislators, judges, and prosecutors recognize the futility of our obsession with protracted imprisonment for individuals whose lives can be salvaged, we will continue to be a “rogue state” when it comes to making the punishment fit the crime.