American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Charles Decker, “We Wish to Instill Fear: Mandatory Sentencing as Policy Solution and the Legacy of Bartley-Fox”

Event time: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
Event description: 

“We Wish to Instill Fear: Mandatory Sentencing as Policy Solution and the Legacy of Bartley-Fox”

Speaker: Charles Decker, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, Yale University

Abstract: Bartley-Fox, an innovative mandatory sentencing law passed in 1974, was crafted not by conservative law-and-order crusaders but by two self-described liberal Democrats in Massachusetts. How did mandatory sentencing arise as the preferred policy solution for the problem of violent crime? Bartley-Fox coincided with a shift of sentencing discretion from judges to legislators at multiple levels of government. This shift had three general consequences: sentencing became more susceptible to public opinion, interest group influence and policy diffusion. Public opinion demanded a policy response to violent crime but was too vague to dictate a specific response. Gun control, an established policy option, was rendered infeasible by Massachusetts’s powerful gun lobby. Policy entrepreneurs crafted a compromise bill using the language of gun control to institute a new policy solution, mandatory sentencing. Bartley-Fox was studied intensely by congress and academics and became a model for the wave of sentencing laws that followed nationwide.

Note: The first seminar convening in Fall 2015 will begin with a brief organizational meeting and introduction to the series by faculty organizer Greg Huber followed by Charles Decker’s presentation.

Sponsored jointly by the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics, each seminar features a presentation of current political science research by leading scholars in the field, including distinguished faculty from other institutions, research fellows of the CSAP, and Ph.D. candidates at Yale.

Event type