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Lawmakers focus on alternative criminal penalties

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The blog often focuses on the spectrum of laws in the state of Texas that address criminal behavior and criminal accusations. The condition of criminal law in Texas has a reputation for being harsh, and the state certainly carries some of the heaviest approaches to criminal prosecution in the country. What is often skirted over, however, but equally important, are the consequences that follow a criminal conviction.

In Texas, where the death penalty is alive and well, light sentences are certainly hard-fought. Recently however, the largest prison guard union in Texas called for the restriction of the use of solitary confinement for those on death row in the state. This was likely done at the recognition of the particular harshness of solitary confinement. While it may be surprising to hear that Texas prison guards are calling for less severe penalties, they are not alone.

Lawmakers and others in the criminal law world have recently put an increased emphasis on transforming the criminal justice system, in order to focus more on rehabilitation rather than solely on punishment. Only a few days earlier, lawmakers at Capitol Hill held a hearing on the issue of solitary confinement. Interest in the subject matter was so large that the room had to be changed to accommodate so many listeners.

Social media is also making an effort to address the current condition of harsh consequences as applied to criminal convictions. Smithsonian Magazine recently published an article concluding that solitary confinement makes it harder for an inmate to reintegrate back into society after release. Further, a new work from Harvard University Press attempts to offer lawmakers alternative policy options.

While the efforts toward change are present, taking allegations seriously is still substantially important. The potential consequences to a conviction can be enormous as is made clear above. It is for this reason that bringing forth a vigorous defense is so imperative.

Source: The Atlantic, "American exceptionalism, crime-and-punishment edition," Andrew Cohen, Feb. 24, 2014

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