Criminal Sentencing Discussed at World of Law Lecture

February 15, 2017

On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, Professor Maybell Romero spoke about criminal sentencing at the World of Law event.

Romero focused on the concept of mass incarceration, which has recently become widespread in the United States. According to Romero, from 1925 to 2014 in the U.S., the number of prisoners has multiplied by 16 times, far greater than the increase in population. According to Romero, the reasons that incarceration has increased includes drug policy changes, changes in sentencing, and racial disparity in sentencing.

Drug policy changes have had the biggest effect on incarceration reported Romero. “Our national drug policy has really been the greatest contributor to our ballooning criminal sentencing,” she said. Drug policy changes include more severe sentences and mandatory sentences for people abusing or in possession of drugs.

Romero also discussed the consequences for the families of the criminals sentenced. She related that nearly half of people in state prisons previously lived with children before being sentenced. Additionally, once these parents are released from prison, they have to immediately be able to support their kids. “It’s really a tragedy, because you see these children who aren’t able to have this relationship with their parent,” Romero said.

Romero encouraged pre-law students who are interested in making a difference to step forward to help solve criminal sentencing issues. “We need fresh faces, fresh ideas to come to law school, to face these issues head on,” she said. She shared that coming to law school is not only about attaining a degree, but also about increasing one's ability to make the world a better place. “I really encourage you not to just come and get a degree, but to really desire to become thought leaders and reformers, to come out here and make a difference,” Romero said.