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An Interview with John Steer
By The Champion
The U.S. Sentencing Commission oversees the operation and revision of
the federal sentencing guidelines. For some observers, sentencing law
and policy are the reasons our prison population has exploded since the
Former commission member John R. Steer talks to The Champion and
discusses, among other things, whether he would exclude the use of
acquitted conduct at sentencing; how the defense bar can influence the
outcome of issues considered by the commission; and the potential of
alternatives to incarceration to meet the needs of sentencing.
Case law handed down in recent years has untied the hands of judges,
giving them discretion at sentencing rather than requiring them to plug
in numbers that do not reflect the unique circumstances of each
defendant. Thus, members of the defense bar have reason for hope. And
yet they realize that the struggle for just, effective, and
constitutional sentencing continues each day in courtrooms across
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