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Discretionary JusticePardon and Parole in New York from the Revolution to the Depression$
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Carolyn Strange

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899920

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899920.001.0001

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The Crime Wave and the War against Discretionary Justice in the 1920s

The Crime Wave and the War against Discretionary Justice in the 1920s

(p.174) 7 The Crime Wave and the War against Discretionary Justice in the 1920s
Discretionary Justice

Carolyn Strange

NYU Press

The welcoming environment that New York had provided for Progressive penology turned hostile in the 1920s, when fear of a crime wave led to an all-out attack on discretionary justice. Scathing accounts of the governor’s pardon power and the Parole Board’s release of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences appeared in the press, and in 1926 draconian mandatory sentencing statutes, known as the Baumes laws, clipped the board’s capacity to parole repeat offenders, yet nothing short of constitutional change could remove the chief executive’s powers. This chapter traces how a spate of prison riots in 1929 helped prompt a compromise between the Republican legislature and Democratic governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. This resulted in a revamped board geared to operate with business efficiency. Thus, a measure of sentencing discretion was restored, while the governor retained sole authority to reprieve and commute death sentences.

Keywords:   parole, crime wave, mandatory sentencing, pardon, discretion, New York

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