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Fall 2022
Volume 19.2
Scott A. Anderson
Reimagining Drug Crimes as Result-Oriented Offenses, or How to Speak to a Legislator about Decriminalization

Drug offenses aim to prohibit certain kinds of conduct, typically possessing or selling dangerous drugs. Over the past five decades, the increased prosecution and sentencing of these conduct offenses has not only failed to achieve its desired effect—curbing drug abuse—but also contributed to myriad social ills, including swelling prison populations and disproportionate minority confinement...

Jacob Schuman
Drug Supervision

Critics of harsh drug sentencing laws in the United States typically focus on long prison sentences. But the American criminal justice system also inflicts a significant volume of drug-related punishment through community supervision (probation, parole, and supervised release). Over one million people are under supervision due to a drug conviction, and drug activity is among the most common reasons for violations. In an age of “mass supervision,” community supervision is a major form of drug sentencing and drug policy...

Justin Murray
Prosecutorial Nonenforcement and Residual Criminalization

In recent years a small but influential group of locally elected prosecutors committed to criminal justice reform have openly refused to enforce various criminal laws—laws prohibiting marijuana possession, sentencing enhancements, laws authorizing the death penalty, and much more—because they see those laws as unjust and incompatible with core reform objectives. Condemned by many on the political right for allegedly usurping the legislature’s lawmaking role and praised by many on the left for bypassing dysfunctional state legislatures in favor of local solutions, these prosecutorial nonenforcement policies are commonly said to have the same effect as nullifying, or even repealing, the laws that they leave unenforced. Yet this idea—the idea that prosecutorial nonenforcement is functionally equivalent to the nullification or repeal of statutory law—is deeply mistaken...

Jordan M. Hyatt, JD, PhD, Kathleen Powell, PhD, Steven L. Chanenson, JD, Nicolette Bell, PhD
The Association between Contemporaneous Intoxication and the Exercise of Judicial Discretion: Implications for Sentencing Policy

A growing amount of anecdotal and descriptive evidence underscores the high prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse among justice-involved populations. In addition to contributing to higher rates of mortality, addiction is often discussed as a factor that both contributes to criminal acts and, especially with regard to non-violent offenses, the scope of mass punishment. However, it is not as apparent how problems of addiction should shape outcomes like criminal sentencing...

Douglas B. Marlowe
Behavioral Responsivity: Toward Evidence-Based Practice Standards For Substance-Related Crime

This article describes sentencing-related practices proven to enhance public health and safety outcomes, improve cost-efficiency, and reduce unfair racial and ethnic disparities for persons charged with substancerelated crimes. The author provides recommendations for incorporating these evidence-based practices as an enforceable standard of care for the criminal justice system and requiring officials to explain on the record why they may elect to impose conditions inconsistent with public health, public safety, and taxpayer interests...

Don Stemen & David Olson
Anchoring Drug Offenses in Cook County: Exploring Variation in Sentence Outcomes in Illinois

In 2000, Human Rights Watch identified Illinois as having one of the country’s highest rates of racial disproportionality in prison admissions for drug offenses. Although Black residents accounted for just 15% of the state population in 2000, they accounted for 90% of the individuals admitted to prison for a drug offense. A subsequent study funded by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority found that Cook County, which includes Chicago, accounted for nearly 66% of all drug arrests in the state, with 85% of those arrests involving Black defendants. The study concluded that racial disparities in prison admissions for drug offenses were being driven by arrest and sentencing practices...