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May 18, 2005

More editorial criticism of House's pursuit of mandatory minimums

In this prior post, I assembled potent quotes from a number of editorials  criticizing the House's passage of an anti-gang bill, HR 1279, which includes a number of mandatory minimums.  Another recent editorial, this one from the St. Petersburg Times, focuses criticism particularly on the House's embrace of mandatory minimum sentencing provisions:

Criminals who commit violent acts and those who repeatedly offend deserve long prison sentences. But experience with mandatory minimums at both the state and federal level has demonstrated they can be unfair. Politicians pass one-size-fits-all measures to appear tough on crime, but those who suffer the most are often the least culpable.

The organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums has documented a long list of cases where people have been severly punished for playing minor roles in crime.  Sentences of 10, 15, 20 years or more in prison are not uncommon for someone — often a wife or girlfriend of a drug runner — who is a nonviolent, first-time offender and an incidental participant in the crime.  Under minimum sentencing rules, judges have no capacity to fashion sentences to fit individual cases.  All the power is shifted to the prosecutor, who determines what offenses to charge.

These proposed laws have less to do with dispensing justice than with conservative Republicans' hostility toward the federal judiciary.  They represent the lingering anger of some GOP leaders over the Terri Schiavo matter and other court rulings.  The Senate should refuse to go along.

I have assembled below a few other recent posts with critical analysis of the House's recent sentencing work:

May 18, 2005 at 01:21 AM | Permalink

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