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January 8, 2005

Gonzales hearing highlights (torture-free)

Busy at this conference, I did not get a chance to see any of the confirmation hearings for AG nominee Alberto Gonzales.  But one of my great research assistants was kind enough to provide me excerpts with some Q & A on topics other than the torture memos.  These excerpts, which can downloaded below, all make for quite interesting reading.

As I expected, there was a little sparing over Gonzales' capital clemency memos for then-Governor Bush in Texas (background here).  But much more interesting, and a lot more encouraging, were some questions from Senators about Gonzales' support for greater rehabilitation programming for federal prisoners. 

Notably, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was Republican Senators Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn and Arlen Specter who had the courage to talk about being smart on crime as well as tough on crime.  As set forth in the first set of excerpts below, Senator Brownback, after noting President Bush's discussion of re-entry issues in his 2004 State of the Union address, promoted his bill for providing intensive treatment and counseling as prisoners are approaching release; Senator Coburn stressed drug crimes and stated boldly "we ought to be doing drug treatment rather than incarceration"; and Senator Specter asserted that these issues are "going to be a priority for the Judiciary Committee this year and next year and into the foreseeable future," and he stressed the importance of distinguishing violent and non-violent criminals.  Among other responses, AG nominee Gonzales said on these issues:

I agree ... that for people who commit violent crimes and are career criminals, they should remain in our prisons.  But there is a segment of the prison population — juveniles, for an example, as you mentioned, and first-time, maybe sometimes second- time offenders — who can be rehabilitated.

And as I said earlier in response to a question, I think it is not only smart, but I think it's the right thing to do. I think it is part of a compassionate society to give someone another chance.

Download gonzales_hearing_excerpts_part_1.doc

In the second set of excerpts below, after more discussion of the clemency memos, Senator Dick Durbin spotlighted racial inequality in both capital and noncapital sentencing and also asked Gonzales directly his opinion of mandatory minimum sentencing.  Gonzales' answers here were a bit more evasive, but I was pleased to see he was up on the legal realities.  Here's the money quote from Gonzales on my favorite topic:

The sentencing guidelines are subject to litigation being reviewed now by the Supreme Court. And so we're all waiting to see whether or not, under Booker and Fanfan, that the court's going to apply the Blakely decision to the sentencing guidelines. And if that happens, I suspect you and I and other — if I’m confirmed — other members of the committee will be spending a lot of time talking about sentencing issues.

Download gonzales_hearing_excerpts_part_2.doc

January 8, 2005 at 09:23 AM | Permalink

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» Alberto Gonzales' Hearing: Non-Torture Issues from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Law Prof Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy analyzes the responses of Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing with respect to some non-torture issues, particlarly, those dealing with rehabilitation of prisoners and the Sentencing Guidelines.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 8, 2005 1:33:37 PM

» Alberto Gonzales' Hearing: Non-Torture Issues from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Law Prof Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy analyzes the responses of Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing with respect to some non-torture issues, particlarly, those dealing with rehabilitation of prisoners and the Sentencing Guidelines.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 8, 2005 1:37:16 PM

» Alberto Gonzales' Hearing: Non-Torture Issues from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Law Prof Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy analyzes the responses of Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing with respect to some non-torture issues, particlarly, those dealing with rehabilitation of prisoners and the Sentencing Guidelines.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 8, 2005 1:39:17 PM

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