Chris Cassidy

Chris Cassidy is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. His writing has been featured in the Harvard Law Record, Justice Watch and the Huffington Post.

Recent Articles

Over-Criminalization: Cruel and Unusual

"Can I get a re-cap of the latest criminal justice news?" Yes. Yes, you can. The Supreme Court ruled last week that California's prison population, which is at 179.6 percent of design-capacity, is so dense that it violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. "When it comes to prisons, the real problems are political and social ones, many deeply entwined with race," Linda Greenhouse wrote in the decision's wake. Sara Mayeux discusses Cali's options that would put the state in compliance with the decision in Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata ,) but Gov. Jerry Brown says there is no way for the state to submit a plan for reducing the prison population by over 30,000 to federal judges by next week, in accordance with the decision. "It's going to take more than two years," Brown said yesterday. Attorney General Eric Holder made news this week, urging the U.S. Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply the reduced disparity in sentences for...

Healthcare Litigation: What's at Stake?

Congress' authority to enact FDR 's New Deal, Civil Rights legislation and environmental protections is all rooted in the Commerce Clause, a little 16-word line in the Constitution with big consequences. Not only does the Commerce Clause undergird the vast majority of federal laws, it was the Framers' primary response to the plague of states' rights that doomed the Articles of Confederation. Despite states-rights advocates losing battles to curb federal power in the Constitutional Convention, the Civil War, ending the Depression and LBJ 's Great Society, President Barack Obama 's signature domestic policy is being seized as another opportunity to chip away at this fundamental pillar in America's experiment in self-governance. The Affordable Care Act, like most federal legislation, is premised on Congress' power to regulate "interstate commerce," the definition of which is presently under a second layer of review by federal courts considering the Act's constitutionality. District...

Holder Urges Retroactivity of Fair Sentencing Act

Testifying before the U.S. Sentencing Commission this morning, Attorney General Eric Holder urged retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduces the sentencing disparity for crimes related to crack, versus powder, cocaine: [I]n considering retroactive application of this amendment, protecting the American people is – and will remain – the Administration’s top priority. President Obama and I, along with leaders across the Administration, understand how illegal drugs – including crack – ravage communities. Crack offenders – especially violent ones – should be punished. And the Justice Department will make every effort to prosecute them. However, as years of experience and study have shown, there is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offenders – a position that Congress overwhelmingly supported with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. For those convicted of crack-related crimes...

Stopping Abortion By Any Means Necessary

Two years ago yesterday, Dr. George Tiller was shot point-blank in his church and died instantly at the hands of a religious zealot with ties to the anti-abortion movement. "Dr. George Tiller was murdered ... by an anti-abortion extremist whose goal was to make abortion less available," noted Rachel Maddow last night. "And today, two years later, there is no abortion-provider in Wichita," where Tiller maintained his practice. As I've written here previously , anti-abortion violence is a persistent thread in the movement's history -- one that the movement and its leaders should be called to examine, explain and address. The threat of assassination continues to loom over those who provide women's healthcare. Just last week, another would-be crusader was arrested in Wisconsin, where, armed with maps and a .38-caliber handgun, he planned to execute doctors and nurses serving at the Madison Planned Parenthood clinic. Marie Diamond observes at ThinkProgress that such extremists "are getting...

End of the Dumb-on-Crime Consensus?

Prodded by the maxim that every challenge is an opportunity, criminal-justice reformers hoped that the recession might deliver long-sought criminal-justice reforms. As Mark Kleiman elegantly argues , there are more humane, more effective and less costly sentencing laws available, making an economic downturn seem like an ideal opportunity to improve our country's sentencing practices. Optimistic evaluations of legislative will to enact such reforms have so far proved fodder for disappointment. There have been some positive developments, however, and the prospect for a few more seems promising. Perhaps the most notable change was Congress' reduction of the sentencing disparity for offenses related to crack versus powder cocaine. For over 20 years, possessing crack was punished 100 times more harshly than possession of powder cocaine. Although most crack-users are white, over 80 percent of those convicted for crack possession are black. Since most convicts for powder possession are white...

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