Punishment By Number


Glenna Hall rails against sentencing guidelines:

For me, sentencing, particularly for drug crimes, was in many ways the hardest part of my work as a judge. Not because the decisions or the work were hard (though of course they were), but because, given the restrictive nature of the sentencing guidelines in Washington, I had virtually no discretion or authority to consider anything about the human being standing before me. I could consider only the nature of the crime, expressed in a number, and the number and kinds of offenses the defendant had committed, also expressed in a number. From those two quantified factors was derived a quite narrow range I was required to use in imposing a sentence. Except in a minuscule set of circumstances, I could only work within that range. The temptation not to think at all but rather to pick a number in the middle was strong.

(Chart: BJS)