Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 15: Criminal Justice Process: Sentencing and Corrections

Cases and Resources

Sentencing Options
Purposes of Punishment
Capital Punishment

Sentencing Options
Criminal Sentencing Statistics
Judges often have several options when delivering a sentence. Analyze the U.S. Department of Justice's statistics on the types of sentences handed down for specific criminal offenses.

Criminal Offender Statistics
The U.S. Department of Justice provides statistics on an offender's likelihood of going to prison based on the crime committed and the person's criminal record. Learn more about the statistical characteristics of those already in prison.

Presentence Report: Example
Examine a worksheet for filling out a presentence report in the United States District Court.  What information would be included in such a report?

Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Judges do not have complete discretion when handing down a sentence to a convicted defendant. Examine the guidelines provided to federal judges in choosing an appropriate sentence.

Sentencing Alternatives
This site, created by a Colorado attorney, describes the types of sentencing alternatives available to judges and what factors a judge considers when deciding on the appropriate sentence.

Mandatory Minimums
Explore an overview of mandatory minimums and the effects of such policies. What arguments can be made to support mandatory minimum sentencing?

Ewing v. California and Lockyer v. Andrade
Read the full text of the decision and dissent upholding California's Three Strikes Law. What is the reasoning for finding the law constitutional? What are the major arguments of the dissent?

Three Strikes Laws
This page introduces the basics of Three Strikes Laws, including justifications and disadvantages.

The Sentencing Project Report on Three Strikes Law
This report explores the effects and the status of the Three Strikes Law seven years after its being implemented. The report argues that the Three Strikes Law should be abolished.

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Purposes of Punishment
Prisons and Punishment provides a short explanation of prisons and how these institutions fulfill the notion of punishment for crimes. The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment, so prisons must be managed in a way that does not violate the health and safety of a prisoner.

Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth in Sentencing Act
Type "H.R. 3584" into the Bill Number search box to read the full text of the act passed by Congress directed at curbing violent crimes in states. The act provides federal funds to states that enforce sentences handed down to violent criminals. This means that criminals will have a more difficult time receiving parole, victims and victims' families will be allowed to speak during sentencing or at the possibility of parole, and a certain portion of sentences must be served before parole is an option.

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United States Parole Commission
Learn from the U.S. Department of Justice Parole Commission what parole is and the basics of parole.

Probation and Parole Statistics
Analyze statistics on people on probation and parole in the United States. Explore trends and changes.

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Capital Punishment
Death Penalty Information Center
Visit the Death Penalty Information Center to explore current cases, DNA laws and practice, Supreme Court cases, statistics, and opinions.

Death Penalty
Listen to programs or read articles exploring the death penalty as a deterrent, race and the death penalty, the execution of certain classes or prisoners (such as the mentally retarded), and how to teach about the death penalty.

Capital Punishment Statistics
Explore statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice on capital punishment in the United States .

Coker v. Georgia
Read this case which outlawed the death penalty for the crime of raping an adult woman. Why does the Court conclude that the death penalty is an inappropriate punishment for this crime?

Kennedy v. Louisiana
In this case, the Court expanded its ruling in Coker and held that imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child is unconstitutional. Read a summary or link to the full text of the opinion. Do you agree with the Court's reasoning?

Furman v. Georgia
Read a summary, link to the full text of the opinion, or listen to the oral arguments from this page. This case held that the death penalty at the time was applied in a cruel and discriminatory fashion.

Lockett v . Ohio
This 1978 Supreme Court case, following Furman, held that the new death penalty laws were constitutional as long as mitigating circumstances were considered in sentencing. Read the full opinion or listen to the oral arguments from this page.

The History of the Death Penalty in America
Take a closer look at the history of the death penalty in America. In addition to an article on the history, this site also features statistics and charts.

The Case Against the Death Penalty
This article argues that the death penalty should not be a form of punishment in the United States. Compare this opinion to the arguments supporting capital punishment.

Defense of the Death Penalty
This article argues that the death penalty should remain a form of punishment in the United States. Read this opinion and compare it to the argument opposing capital punishment.

Baze v. Rees
In this case, the Court found that carrying out the death penalty using the lethal injection did not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At this site, you can read both a summary and the full opinion in the case.

Thompson v. Oklahoma
Read a summary of the case that found the death penalty for juveniles to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment. From this site, you may also link to the full text of the opinion or listen to oral arguments.

The Innocence Project
The Innocence Project is a nonprofit legal clinic dedicated to using DNA evidence to exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted. Read the stories of some inmates who have been proven innocent using DNA evidence.

Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances
Examine the jury instructions, used in Oklahoma, which guide a jury in deciding whether aggravating circumstances or mitigating circumstances were present in a homicide.

Atkins v. Virginia
Read a summary of the Supreme Court case holding that the death penalty for mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment. From this page, link to the full text of the decision or listen to the oral arguments.

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Statistics on State Prison and Jail Inmates
Browse a short list of statistics about inmates in state prisons and jails. Who makes up the majority of state prisoners?

Cutter v. Wilkinson
This case is about prisoners' right to practice their religion while incarcerated. Read a summary or the full opinion at this site.

Bounds v. Smith
Read the opinion in this case, which required prisoners to have meaningful access to courts while incarcerated. As a result of this case, many state and federal prisons established law libraries. Why did the Court find that this is necessary?

Incarcerated Parents and Their Children
This report, compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, explores statistics related to incarcerated parents and their children. Click on Acrobat file to view these figures.

American Civil Liberties Union: Prisoners
There are many organizations that support the rights of prisoners. Browse through this site by the American Civil Liberties Union organization that reports on the human rights of prisoners in the United States.

Life After Prison
Read the stories of and issues regarding prisoners being released from jail and the experiences that many face when reentering society.

Office of Justice Programs: Reentry
This site provides information about reentry into society from prison. Explore the federal and state resources available to help people learn to live well when reentering society.

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