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Sentencing Justice

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While there are many theories of punishment and these invite endless debate, there are some basic principles that seem quite plausible within the context of the political and moral philosophy of American thought. Image Credit In general, it seems reasonable to accept (within this context) that punishments in the legal system need to be consistent, impartial and proportionate. Consistency in punishments requires that the same crimes be punished in the same manner and to the same degree, allowing for application of the principle of relevant difference. The need to allow for relevant difference is, of course, the fact that crimes are rarely identical and the differences between crimes of the same type can be relevant to sentencing. Naturally, one might insist that these differences would make for different crimes, but this can be considered by comparing relevantly similar crimes. Impartiality requires that the same punishments be applied to people regardless of their race, religion, economic class and other such factors that are not relevant. Naturally, relevant differences can be justly applied—which can cause considerable debate over what is and is not relevant. Proportionate punishment requires that, as the saying goes, the punishment fits the crime. This can also be applied across crimes. For example, since cocaine and crack are essentially the same sort of drug, any punishments for possessing or selling them should be the same regardless of whether the drug was cocaine or crack cocaine. As should be expected, the American criminal justice system relentlessly fails to meet these basic principles. To illustrate this, I will make use of the case of Paul Manafort. Manafort was, in a recent trial, sentenced to 47 months in prison for committing crimes amounting to millions of dollars. The judge regarded the sentencing guidelines, which recommended 19-24 years, as too harsh and elected for this far more lenient sentence. While it can certainly be. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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