To Incarcerate or Not to Incarcerate Is the Question: Our Judicial Role in Resolving the Mass Incarceration Dilemma


To Incarcerate or Not to Incarcerate Is the Question: Our Judicial Role in Resolving the Mass Incarceration Dilemma

The question of whether to incarcerate or not is the Shakespearean-like question faced by sentencing judges as they determine the appropriateness of incarceration.

Judge Norma Shapiro was the first woman to be appointed to the federal district court in the federal Third Circuit, the eighth female judge in the United States in 1978, and only the 12th female judge in the history of the United States.

In February, 2012, the U.S. Sentencing Commission held a hearing on the state of federal sentencing seven years after the landmark Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Booker.

While sentencing reforms came out of a social movement intended to rationalize sentencing and constrain judicial discretion, their creators viewed the problem very differently.

People are generally unsympathetic to incarcerated people and policymakers do not want to deal with the issue even though it makes economic sense to do so.

To be truly effective in finding comprehensive solutions to address crime in our communities, we also need to prevent crime—and here reentry plays an integral role.

Mass incarceration and the get-tough policies that fuel it have wreaked havoc on the lives of prisoners and the communities to which they return, as evidenced by Rikers Island and the demographics of this exiled population.

During the last 10 years of my tenure at the University of Minnesota Law School, I led a course called the Sentencing Workshop.

Judge Dixon discusses the importance of cybersecurity as a priority of the United States and the American Bar Association, tells the story of a prominent technology writer who was the victim of malicious computer hacking, and gives practical suggestions of steps people can take to strengthen their defenses to a cyber attack. By Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr.

Judges should stay informed of corrections institutions’ practices by engaging in dialogue with corrections officers in official settings and touring the facilities to which they sentence offenders.


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