black lives matterby Attorney Natalie Jackson
Criminal justice decision makers are selected through election or appointment. In some states, voters elect judges, while in other states, governors appoint them. In either case, the selection process is political. Lawyers who have performed political deeds for their party often become candidates for judgeships.

As for federal judges, the president appoints them and the Senate confirms them.

The political process profoundly influences the U.S. Supreme Court. Retirements from the Court and new appointments produce shifts in the Court's positions on criminal justice issues."


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One lawyer who was instrumental in rewriting federal drug laws in 1986 and 1988 says the severe sentencing laws came about through whim and attempts by politicians to one-up each other as drugs

seized media headlines just before elections. "There was a level of hysteria that led to a total breakdown of the legislative process," says the lawyer, Eric Sterling, who as lead attorney on the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary wrote the laws that established long mandatory sentences for several types of drug convictions.

What has resulted from two decades of get-tough sentencing policy? The prison population has exploded. Costs of corrections have skyrocketed. The distribution of revenue within state governments has shifted in favor of allocating more money for prisons and less for education and other essential human services.