03 December 2004

Throwing Away the Key

One of the major issues in US criminal law over the last quarter of a century has been the scope, consistency, and severity of punishments. Apparently, it's not just for Americans any more; Japan has now started down the same path we have so ignominiously blazed. Although I'm no expert on Japanese criminal law, it looks to me like the Japanese are updating their criminal code (for the first time in 90 years) to punishments on a par with the late 1980s in this country.

What might be more interesting to watch is Japan's process of implementing a system of "lay judges" for less-serious offenses. Combine this with some hints in the referenced article, particularly those concerning the "victim's rights" movement, and I expect to see importation of the concept behind the US Sentencing Guidelines in time for those lay judges. Another evil export from the US on the way…