A teen-aged girl gets caught with a suitcase stuffed with powdered cocaine, and she comes before a federal judge. That judge learns that a felony conviction carries punishments for life for her. He embarks on a mission to get all other judges to shorten prison sentences in light of this. Meanwhile, a researcher learns of a pervasive but secretive practice where prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges skirt the truth to protect defendants from unjust harsh punishments imposed on them by lawmakers. This week we look at collateral consequences, the thousands of laws restricting the freedoms and opportunities of the formerly convicted, like voting, housing, job opportunities, government benefits, and deportation. One philosopher believes many of these are permanent punishments, not civil measures for reducing risk. Guest voices include Judge Frederic Block, philosopher Zachary Hoskins, and legal scholar Thea Johnson.
In Slate Plus, Judge Block gives his opinions about mandatory minimum sentencing and prosecutorial immunity. Zachary Hoskins distinguishes between two different principles of proportionality in sentencing, and Thea Johnson talks about why fictional pleas give prosecutors more power, even though they benefit defendants. To get the full bonus episode of Hi-Phi Nation, sign up for Slate Plus at slate.com/hiphiplus.
Judge Frederic Block’s Crime’s and Punishments: Entering the Mind of the Sentencing Judge.
Thea Johnson’s “Fictional Pleas”