Today’s Supreme Court decisions feed wrong-headed punitive frenzy
Decisions symptomatic of ill-advised direction of justice system
Washington DC (March 5, 2003) -- In response to two decisions each in cases addressing Megan’s laws and three-strikes laws by the U.S. Supreme Court today, Lawrence Goldman, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:
“Today’s Supreme Court decisions reinforce the unhealthy abandonment of rehabilitation as a goal of the criminal justice system. By rubber-stamping the harsh dictates of politically-motivated state legislatures, the Court has upheld life punishments, although of different types, for individuals who have successfully completed their prison terms for sex-related crimes, as in the two Megan’s Law cases, or who have been convicted of only relatively minor crimes, as in the three-strikes cases.
“If we are going to discard the hope for rehabilitation, we should do so explicitly, and rename every state ‘department of corrections’ the ‘department of punishment.’
“A majority of the Supreme Court appears to have forgotten that the Constitution was adopted to protect individuals from the excesses of the state. By its decisions, the Court minimizes the role of the Constitution and indeed its own role as the ultimate protector of our rights.”
Goldman is a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. He can be reached at (212)997-7499.