Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jan 2005
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author:  O.J. Keller Jr.


There was good news last week for those active in the criminal justice
field ("Justices strike down sentencing guidelines," Page One, Jan.

When the guidelines --- many the product of glorified clerks --- were
created in 1987, the incarceration rate exploded. Now 2.1 million
Americans are in jails and prisons --- seven times the number in 1970
- --- and it costs billions annually.

While offenders can be punished in a variety of ways, America's
reliance on jails and prisons gives our nation the dubious distinction
of having far more of its citizens behind bars than any other country
in the Western world. Until the recent Supreme Court decision, judges
believed the sentencing guidelines to be mandatory. And many
prosecutors have liked it that way. Judges now can exercise discretion.

Mandatory sentences are counterproductive, diverting funds needed for
education and other human services.

O.J. KELLER JR. Keller, of Atlanta, is a former member of the national
appeals board, U.S. Parole Commission. 
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