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After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne Jul 2021

After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne

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While an offender’s conduct before and during the crime is the traditional focus of criminal law and sentencing rules, an examination of post-offense conduct can also be important in promoting criminal justice goals. After the crime, different offenders make different choices and have different experiences, and those differences can suggest appropriately different treatment by judges, correctional officials, probation and parole supervisors, and other decision-makers in the criminal justice system.

Positive post-offense conduct ought to be acknowledged and rewarded, not only to encourage it but also as a matter of fair and just treatment. This essay describes four kinds of positive …


Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse Nov 2020

Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse

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This essay responds to Hirstein, Sifferd and Fagan’s book, Responsible Brains (MIT Press, 2018), which claims that executive function is the guiding mechanism that supports both responsible agency and the necessity for some excuses. In contrast, I suggest that executive function is not the universal acid and the neuroscience at present contributes almost nothing to the necessary psychological level of explanation and analysis. To the extent neuroscience can be useful, it is virtually entirely dependent on well-validated psychology to correlate with the neuroscientific variables under investigation. The essay considers what executive function is and what the neuroscience adds to our …


Foreword: Abolition Constitutionalism, Dorothy E. Roberts Jan 2019

Foreword: Abolition Constitutionalism, Dorothy E. Roberts

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In this Foreword, I make the case for an abolition constitutionalism that attends to the theorizing of prison abolitionists. In Part I, I provide a summary of prison abolition theory and highlight its foundational tenets that engage with the institution of slavery and its eradication. I discuss how abolition theorists view the current prison industrial complex as originating in, though distinct from, racialized chattel slavery and the racial capitalist regime that relied on and sustained it, and their movement as completing the “unfinished liberation” sought by slavery abolitionists in the past. Part II considers whether the U.S. Constitution is an …


Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson

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It is easy to understand the apparent appeal of strict liability to policymakers and legal reformers seeking to reduce crime: if the criminal law can do away with its traditional culpability requirement, it can increase the likelihood of conviction and punishment of those who engage in prohibited conduct or bring about prohibited harm or evil. And such an increase in punishment rate can enhance the crime-control effectiveness of a system built upon general deterrence or incapacitation of the dangerous. Similar arguments support the use of criminal liability for regulatory offenses. Greater punishment rates suggest greater compliance.

But this analysis fails …


Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2017

Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Of the many diagnoses of American criminal justice’s ills, few focus on externalities. Yet American criminal justice systematically overpunishes in large part because few mechanisms exist to force consideration of the full social costs of criminal justice interventions. Actors often lack good information or incentives to minimize the harms they impose. Part of the problem is structural: criminal justice is fragmented vertically among governments, horizontally among agencies, and individually among self-interested actors. Part is a matter of focus: doctrinally and pragmatically, actors overwhelmingly view each case as an isolated, short-term transaction to the exclusion of broader, long-term, and aggregate effects. …


The Legal Limits Of “Yes Means Yes”, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2016

The Legal Limits Of “Yes Means Yes”, Paul H. Robinson

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This op-ed piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that the affirmative consent rule of "yes means yes" is a useful standard that can help educate and ideally change norms regarding consent to sexual intercourse. But that goal can best be achieved by using “yes means yes” as an ex ante announcement of the society's desired rule of conduct. That standard only becomes problematic when used as the ex post principle of adjudication for allegations of rape. Indeed, those most interested in changing existing norms ought to be the persons most in support of distinguishing these two importantly different …


What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2016

What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Equality in criminal sentencing often translates into equalizing outcomes and stamping out variations, whether race-based, geographic, or random. This approach conflates the concept of equality with one contestable conception focused on outputs and numbers, not inputs and processes. Racial equality is crucial, but a concern with eliminating racism has hypertrophied well beyond race. Equalizing outcomes seems appealing as a neutral way to dodge contentious substantive policy debates about the purposes of punishment. But it actually privileges deterrence and incapacitation over rehabilitation, subjective elements of retribution, and procedural justice, and it provides little normative guidance for punishment. It also has unintended …


Discounting And Criminals' Implied Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick Jan 2015

Discounting And Criminals' Implied Risk Preferences, Murat C. Mungan, Jonathan Klick

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It is commonly assumed that potential offenders are more responsive to increases in the certainty than increases in the severity of punishment. An important implication of this assumption within the Beckerian law enforcement model is that criminals are risk-seeking. This note adds to existing literature by showing that offenders who discount future monetary benefits can be more responsive to the certainty rather than the severity of punishment, even when they are risk averse, and even when their disutility from imprisonment rises proportionally (or more than proportionally) with the length of the sentence.


Collateral Consequences And The Preventive State, Sandra G. Mayson Jan 2015

Collateral Consequences And The Preventive State, Sandra G. Mayson

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Approximately eight percent of adults in the United States have a felony conviction. The “collateral consequences” of criminal conviction (CCs) — legal disabilities imposed by legislatures on the basis of conviction, but not as part of the sentence — have relegated that group to permanent second class legal status. Despite the breadth and significance of this demotion, the Constitution has provided no check; courts have almost uniformly rejected constitutional challenges to CCs. Among scholars, practitioners and mainstream media, a consensus has emerged that the courts have erred by failing to recognize CCs as a form of additional punishment. Courts should …


Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Jan 2015

Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

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Using stories from the utopian non-punishment hippie communes of the late 1960's, the essay challenges today’s anti-punishment movement by demonstrating that the benefits of cooperative action are available only with the adoption of a system for punishing violations of core rules. Rather than being an evil system anathema to right-thinking people, punishment is the lynchpin of the cooperative action that has created human success.

This is Chapter 3 from the general audience book Pirates, Prisoners, and Lepers: Lessons from Life Outside the Law. Chapter 4 of the book is also available on SSRN at http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2416484).


"Not Just A Common Criminal": The Case For Sentencing Mitigation Videos, Regina Austin Apr 2014

"Not Just A Common Criminal": The Case For Sentencing Mitigation Videos, Regina Austin

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Sentencing mitigation or sentencing videos are a form of visual legal advocacy that is produced on behalf of defendants for use in the sentencing phases of criminal cases (from charging to clemency). The videos are typically short (5 to 10 minutes or so) nonfiction films that explore a defendant’s background, character, and family situation with the aim of raising factual and moral issues that support the argument for a shorter or more lenient sentence. Very few examples of mitigation videos are in the public domain and available for viewing. This article provides a complete analysis of the constituent elements of …


Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister Jan 2014

Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister

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A number of articles and empirical studies over the past decade, most by Paul Robinson and co-authors, have suggested a relationship between the extent of the criminal law's reputation for being just in its distribution of criminal liability and punishment in the eyes of the community – its "moral credibility" – and its ability to gain that community's deference and compliance through a variety of mechanisms that enhance its crime-control effectiveness. This has led to proposals to have criminal liability and punishment rules reflect lay intuitions of justice – "empirical desert" – as a means of enhancing the system's moral …


Forfeiture Of Illegal Gains, Attempts And Implied Risk Preferences, Jonathan Klick, Murat C. Mungan Jan 2014

Forfeiture Of Illegal Gains, Attempts And Implied Risk Preferences, Jonathan Klick, Murat C. Mungan

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In the law enforcement literature there is a presumption—supported by some experimental and econometric evidence—that criminals are more responsive to increases in the certainty than the severity of punishment. Under a general set of assumptions, this implies that criminals are risk seeking. We show that this implication is no longer valid when forfeiture of illegal gains and the possibility of unsuccessful attempts are considered. Therefore, when drawing inferences concerning offenders’ attitudes toward risk based on their responses to various punishment schemes, special attention must be paid to whether and to what extent offenders’ illegal gains can be forfeited and whether …


Comments On [Israeli] Proposal For Structuring Judicial Discretion In Sentencing, Paul H. Robinson Mar 2011

Comments On [Israeli] Proposal For Structuring Judicial Discretion In Sentencing, Paul H. Robinson

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In this essay, Professor Robinson supports the current Israeli proposal for structuring judicial discretion in sentencing, in particular its reliance upon desert as the guiding principle for the distribution of punishment, its reliance upon benchmarks, or “starting-points,” to be adjusted in individual cases by reference to articulated mitigating and aggravating circumstances, and the proposal’s suggestion to use of an expert committee to draft the original guidelines.


Restoration But Also More Justice, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2009

Restoration But Also More Justice, Stephanos Bibas

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This short essay replies to Erik Luna's endorsement of restorative justice. He is right that the goal of healing victims, defendants, and their families is important but all too often neglected by substantive criminal law and procedure, which is far too state-centered and impersonal. The problem with restorative justice is that too often it seeks to sweep away punishment as barbaric and downplays the need for deterrence and incapacitation as well. In short, restorative justice deserves more of a role in American criminal justice. Shorn of its political baggage and reflexive hostility to punishment, restorative justice has much to teach …


Happiness And Punishment, Christopher J. Buccafusco, John Bronsteen, Jonathan S. Masur Aug 2008

Happiness And Punishment, Christopher J. Buccafusco, John Bronsteen, Jonathan S. Masur

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This article continues our project to apply groundbreaking new literature on the behavioral psychology of human happiness to some of the most deeply analyzed questions in law. Here we explain that the new psychological understandings of happiness interact in startling ways with the leading theories of criminal punishment. Punishment theorists, both retributivist and utilitarian, have failed to account for human beings' ability to adapt to changed circumstances, including fines and (surprisingly) imprisonment. At the same time, these theorists have largely ignored the severe hedonic losses brought about by the post-prison social and economic deprivations (unemployment, divorce, and disease) caused by …


The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson, John M. Darley Jan 1997

The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson, John M. Darley

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The article takes up the debate between utility and desert as distributive principles for criminal liability and punishment and concludes that a utilitarian analysis that takes account of all costs and benefits will support the distribution of liability and punishment according to desert, or at least according to the principles of desert as perceived by the community. It reaches this conclusion after an examination of a variety of recent social science data. On the one hand, it finds the traditional utilitarian theories of deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation to have little effect in many instances. It finds instead that the real …


The Role Of Harm And Evil In Criminal Law: A Study In Legislative Deception?, Paul H. Robinson Jan 1994

The Role Of Harm And Evil In Criminal Law: A Study In Legislative Deception?, Paul H. Robinson

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What is the role of the occurrence of harm or evil in criminal law? What should it be? Answers to these questions commonly use the distinction between what is called an objective and a subjective view of criminality. To oversimplify, the objective view maintains that the occurrence of the harm or evil defined by the offense is highly relevant. The subjectivist view maintains that such harm or evil is irrelevant; only the actor's culpable state of mind regarding the occurrence of the harm or evil is important. The labels tend to overstate a rather subtle distinction. The objectivist or harmful …