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Today In Mass Incarceration

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I don’t condone the behavior of the Atlanta teachers and administrators who cheated on high-stakes tests, although I also think that the cheating was foreseeable given the incentives (and this can’t be an isolated case.) But this is a classic case of vastly disproportionate punishment:

On their eighth day of deliberations, the jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants — a mixture of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — were also convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.

Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Judge Baxter, who presided over a trial that began with opening statements more than six months ago, will begin sentencing hearings next week.

Hopefully the sentences won’t reach 20 years, but the fact that they were sent to prison immediately suggests that many years of hard time will be involved. It strikes me that more than token jail time for this offense is absurd, particularly in a country where the de facto punishment for torture and economy-destroying financial fraud is “nothing.”

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