20 January 2006

More Mandatory Minimum Horror Stories

The Courts have abdicated all responsibility for carrying out their obligations under the 8th Amendment (which applies directly, not through the 14th Amendment, in federal cases). Congress has written mandatory minimum sentence laws that sound rational in a committee chamber, but are insane, in practice. The result, horror stories of minor drug offenders with prior convictions getting much longer sentences than drug bosses.

It is not logical. It is cruel. It is unusual. It is a waste of public money. It is a waste of private lives. The trial judges implementing them know that the sentences are wrong. The U.S. Attorneys who press these cases are morally bankrupt. Congress is asleep and in a Republican controlled regime cares more about demagogury than common senses.

Democrats will be in control of Congress soon. When they do, they need to wake up, do the right thing, and overhaul the federal sentencing regime that creates these appalling injustices. Maybe we could start with a very modest proposal, a bill that provides that:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of federal law, no one convicted of any crime that does not cause a death shall be subject to a sentence for a crime, or a combined sentence for any number of crimes committed prior to be convicted for any of them, shall be given a combined sentence which exceeds the sentence that would otherwise have been imposed for a non-capital murder by a first time offender."

It would be a place to begin.

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