This is Justice? Judges Seeking Reelection More Likely to Hand Out Harsh Sentences

Criminal judges are imposing harsher punishments on defendants—including death and lifetime sentences—in attempt to bolster their reelection bids, a disturbing new study by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law reveals.

The researchers reviewed 10 empirical investigations into the impact that judicial election has on outcomes for defendants. “These studies, conducted across states, court levels, and type of elections, all found that proximity to re-election made judges more likely to impose longer sentences, affirm death sentences, and even override sentences of life imprisonment to impose the death penalty,” a summary of the report states.

“The research is clear,” said Kate Berry, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and author of the report, entitled . “Judges are more likely to hand out harsh sentences, including death, the closer they get to a re-election or retention election campaign.”