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LAW Policy Practicum: Rethinking Penal Code Enhancements in California

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LAW 414F

Policy Practicum: Rethinking Penal Code Enhancements in California

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[ Academia ] [ Litigation ] [ Regulatory & Policy ] Criminal Law: General

Why it is relevant for ...

[ Academia ] [ Litigation ] [ Regulatory & Policy ] as a Related Elective for those interested in Public Policy : A policy practicum is a great choice for skills-based training in the range of methods available to effect changes in the law. Some policy labs, like this one, offer students an opportunity to do research on the scope of a problem not adequately addressed in current law or regulation. Students develop proposals for new or revised regulation based on problems identified in their research. This course is a good choice for students interested in criminal law and the criminal justice system. It is the first in a multi-term project intended to develop potential revisions to the California Penal Code for consideration by the California judiciary and ultimately the California Legislature. First steps include a statutory analysis of the overall scheme of enhancements in sentencing, and an empirical analysis of the relationship of sentencing upgrades to prison time.

General course Description:

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center was approached by the Chief Justice of California to advise the judiciary, and indirectly the Legislature, on potential revisions to the California Penal Code. The California prison system remains under federal court control for unconstitutional overcrowding, and the federal court is loath to terminate the injunction without some reassurance of reforms that might prevent the overcrowding from recurring. In the absence of a state sentencing commission, the Chief Justice believes that we at Stanford can perform a fresh new analysis of the parts of the Penal Code that most merit review, in terms of their undue complexity, their arguably disproportionate severity, and the possibility that they are major drivers of the size of the prison population. Enhancements are an incredibly complex part of the Penal Code. Tens of provisions, many of them obscure even to judges, allow for very large upgrades to sentences because of aspects of conduct that are said to aggravate the underlying crime. (Please note that while some of the enhancements under review involve prior crimes, we are not dealing with the Three Strikes Law.) The Chief Justice¿s administrative arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), acknowledges that no one has performed even a statutory analysis of the overall scheme of enhancements, much less any empirical effort to connect them to prison inputs. This will likely be a multi-term Policy Lab that will ultimately gather data to attempt this empirical analysis, but the first term effort is more circumscribed. A team of students will undertake the mapping of the statutory terrain ¿ a charting of all the enhancements in the Penal Code and the many cross-permutations of these enhancements and the crimes to which they attach, and as a first empirical cut, identification of the permutations of crime and enhancements that are most often charged in California. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and e-mail the Consent Application Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students) to the instructors. See Consent Application Form for contact information and submission deadline. Elements used in grading: As agreed to by instructor.

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