Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘barack obama

Happy Bastille Day!

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Place de la Bastille. Photo by Brother Magneto (click image for Flickr original)

On this day 221 years ago, revolutionaries stormed a prison and, as they say in History 101, the modern world began. Of course, so did a Reign of Terror which “produced a far larger number of political prisoners than were ever confined in the Bastille or anywhere else in prerevolutionary France. Generally, however, their imprisonment did not endure long: they were either killed or freed” (Aryeh Neier, “Confining Dissent,” The Oxford History of the Prison, p. 353).

Traditionally, the French president would grant a mass pardon every July 14, but President Sarkozy has discontinued the practice. In that respect, he is not dissimilar from his American counterpart. Although historically most U.S. presidents have used their executive clemency powers within 100 days of their inauguration, Obama recently reached his 536th day in office without granting a single pardon or commutation — surpassing John Adams and catapulting into third place on the list of presidents who have waited the longest. Nos. 1 and 2 are George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Bookmark Pardon Power, an excellent blog on all things executive clemency run by Professor P.S. Ruckman, and you’ll be sure to find out if and when Obama decides to exercise his constitutionally granted powers of mercy.

Written by sara

July 14, 2010 at 7:01 am

Upcoming Event: The New Jim Crow

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Stanford Law School will host Ohio State professor Michelle Alexander this Wednesday, Feb. 10, to discuss her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New Press, 2010). Here’s the publisher’s blurb on the book:

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status—much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Written by sara

February 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Shaking Up the Politics of “Tough on Crime”

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Last week President Obama proposed huge budget increases for the federal prison system, disappointing anyone who might have hoped that a Democratic president would take a forceful stand against mass incarceration. Meanwhile, in recent months at least a few conservative politicians and pundits have begun to call — however faintly — for criminal justice reforms. What’s going on? For the past 20 years or so, it’s been a truism of American politics that you can’t win elections if you’re not “tough on crime” (read: if you don’t support harsher punishments, longer sentences, etc.) Democratic Party politicians, in particular, have feared the label “soft on crime” and lived by the credo, “No more Willie Hortons.” So, paradoxically, the self-proclaimed “law-and-order” Republican Party may actually have more leeway to call for sentencing reforms that would reduce the prison population. Or, perhaps the nationwide budget crisis is finally forcing politicians of all stripes to confront the reality that mass incarceration — whatever else it may be — is not the soundest fiscal policy.

In any event, here’s a recent editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazetteamong the country’s most conservative papers — calling for sentencing reform, and portraying it as a non-partisan cause:

Prison spending was less than 3 percent of the Colorado budget 20 years ago. Today, in an era when the population base is aging and crime rates are dropping, the state spends 9 percent of its general fund to incarcerate convicts.

“It is clearly time to take a hard look at the sentence laws and policies that help drive run-away prison spending in Colorado,” said Mike Krause, a senior fellow at the conservative, free market Independence Institute.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by sara

February 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm

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