I am going to tweet just a little about #ManafortSentencing . Manafort received a sentence that is substantially lighter than the sentencing guidelines recommend. As you may know, I write about sentencing in the larger context of how we use time to transact over power.
For much of human history other forms of punishment were more common. Banishment, torture, & death are a few examples. I once read a florid description of the ancient practice of forcing a convict to swallow molten metal.
Incarceration was supposed to modernize & humanize punishment. If people can be sentenced to spend time in prison, we can at least make a show of fair, evenhanded, & humane treatment.
Punishments measured in units of time can be imposed in a way that makes them seem uniform, thus allowing us to think that we are treating everyone in an evenhanded way. Sentencing guidelines were touted as taking away discretion from judges who were vulnerable to partiality.
Morally equal persons must be treated as equals by the state.The time of the sentence stands in for a character development process - it might be penitence, reform, or paying a debt. Something happens to our character in that time.
In reality, sentencing guidelines led to disastrously long sentences that fell disproportionately on African American people, esp men, while white people with similar records often went unpoliced & unpunished. This had many effects.
Vast amounts of the political time of the unfairly incarcerated was taken from them. But even more insidious is the clear message that people being denied their political time are being imprisoned because they actually aren't the moral equals of those not serving long sentences.
Back to Manafort. Last night I tweeted that "white impunity is a helluva privilege." Manafort is a morally corrupt individual. This we know both from his crimes in this case and from his past deeds. theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
Yet the judge referred to his otherwise blameless life and he has not been sentenced in this case to a term that even approaches the minimum recommended sentence. Many people tweeted about the much more minor crimes for which people of color have received longer sentences.
Think back to the idea that character undergoes a process in prison. If you have to be in prison longer than someone else who committed a similar crime, then the implication is that your character is impervious to that process. It is lesser, weaker, slower, or incapable.
When a white person can commit a lifetime's worth of crimes and receive the sentence of an "otherwise blameless" person but black people are kept behind bars for minor crimes, we have denied their moral equality and abandoned a basic premise of a liberal democracy.
Thank you for coming to my book talk.

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