Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Launches Publicly-Available Resource for Resisting and Challenging Excessive Sentences

Washington, DC (May 22, 2013) – NACDL is pleased to offer, as a resource for its members and as a service to the public, a collection of individual downloadable documents that summarize for each U.S. state the key doctrines and leading court rulings setting forth constitutional and statutory limits on lengthy imprisonment terms and other extreme (non-capital) sentences. The resource – Excessive Sentencing: NACDL’s Proportionality Litigation Project – is available at

NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said: “The United States now leads the world in incarceration, with more than 2.2 million people behind bars, as a result of overcriminalization and excessive sentencing. NACDL’s Excessive Sentencing Project being launched today is the type of resource for practitioners, judges, policy advocates, and the general public that embodies NACDL’s tireless work to fulfill its mission. The tools provided in this expansive online resource will be deployed to improve America’s criminal justice system and will result in more humane, rational and proportional sentencing of those convicted of a crime.”

Development of this new resource was inspired in part by the Supreme Court’s recent landmark constitutional decisions in Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (May 17, 2010), and Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 245 (June 25, 2012), which pronounced new Eighth Amendment limits on when and how states can impose life without parole prison terms on juvenile offenders. The state profiles and related materials provide a detailed snapshot of existing proportionality doctrines and jurisprudence as of fall 2012. They are intended as a resource for practitioners in all phases of the criminal justice system, for sentencing and appellate courts, for policymakers and advocates concerned with the high economic and human costs of excessively long terms of imprisonment, and for defendants facing or serving extreme prison terms.

The primary academic supervisor of this resource is Professor Douglas A. Berman of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, who is also the creator, author and editor of the leading Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, an affiliate of the Law Professor Blogs Network. He is also the co-author of the case book, Sentencing Law and Policy: Cases, Statutes and Guidelines. Professor Berman intends to update these materials regularly as developments in the law warrant and new information becomes available.

On the project’s landing page – – there is a free, nearly 90-minute sentencing skills webinar featuring Professor Berman and Stephen Hardwick, an assistant public defender in Columbus, Ohio, where he specializes in appellate advocacy on behalf of clients convicted of capital offenses and other felonies.

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