The Sentencing Law and Policy blog recently questioned whether the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision in Paschal was due to the harsh sentence given (link). The real issue is that a jury gave Paschal 30 years for having consensual sex with an 18-year-old female. Sentencing Law and Policy also notes that Americans are greatly concerned about the amount of people in prison and the amount of money spent on housing prisoners (link).
It seems as though rising prison costs and mass incarceration are problems in the abstract but when faced with a decision as a juror it seems easier to lock someone away for an extended period of time rather than have them be a part of your community. Perhaps there is not a better case to demonstrate that principle than Paschal. To lock a man away for 30 years based on a consensual sexual relationship with another adult is absurd. The problem is that each juror worried about a teacher having sex with their daughter instead of wondering about the equally likely scenario of a family member being in the defendant’s seat in this case. While the Arkansas Supreme Court did the right thing in this case and dismissed the convictions, there are thousands of other cases where similar verdicts are handed down without review. If our society is truly concerned with the amount of money spent on incarceration and the amount of people incarcerated then it needs to be more conscious of that fact when it comes to signing off on extreme verdicts.