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October 2007 Archives

Sentencing Summit

I was pleased to be invited to attend the Sentencing Summit in Augusta yesterday. Every judge in the State was in attendance, as were various Legislators, Governor's representatives and Corrections Officials. The point that was made repeatedly, and that was echoed by many who practice criminal defense work, was that the concept of jailing individuals who are low-risk offenders actually increases recidivism. Members of the Criminal Justice Committee of the State Senate were asked to stop criminalizing conduct merely as a reaction to what their constituents think they want. As Sen. Bill Diamond pointed out, the citizens are a powerful voice, and legislators listen to them. This summit was useful (hopefully) if only to make the point that mandatory minimums (such as those in Tina's Law) only serve to hurt the efforts at those in the trenches who are trying come to a resolution that resembles justice. An article about the summit can be found at the WCSH website or through the following link: http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=73680

Timothy Zerillo Speaks At Conference on Risk Assessment on Sentencing and Probation

Yesterday afternoon I was pleased to be invited to speak as the criminal defense representative for Cumberland County regarding a risk assessment pilot program they are beginning in York County. The program was titled "Risk Assessment: New Directions in Setting Conditions of Release and Sentencing," and it was co-sponsored by the York and Cumberland Bar Associations. The program is designed to give probation a chance to understand potential recidivism rates for offenders. I was asked to explain how I would approach five fact patterns from the defense perspective, which were then compared against the risk assessment determination under those hypotheticals. One of the upsides of the program is that the data encourages probation (and, hopefully, prosecutors and sentencing judges) to decrease supervision of low risk offenders. This is something that I (and the much of the defense bar) have been saying for years. It sounds as though probation in York and Cumberland Counties are beginning to agree with this position as well. Hopefully, this is a step toward rational sentencing in Maine. Keep your fingers crossed. I have been invited to speak at the Sentencing Symposium in Augusta later this month, and will report back on that as well.