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September 23, 2005

Meth, mandatories and moral values

Recognizing that methamphetamine is the latest "drug epidemic" in the news, Families Against Mandatory Minimums has focused its latest FAMM Gram on spotlighting why it would be unwise for Congress to respond "to drug and gang hysteria with new, ill-considered mandatory sentencing laws."  This short newsletter includes a lot of interesting items, including a portion of a June 29 letter to the Washington Post from Charles Thomas, Executive Director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, which suggests an interesting faith-based perspective on sentencing policy:

Considering how often the Bush administration refers to moral values, it should consider that most major religious groups oppose mandatory sentencing, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, all four major black Baptist denominations, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

No denominations are known to favor mandatory sentencing.  The moral position on this issue is clear.

September 23, 2005 at 08:02 AM | Permalink


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So who is now injecting their religion into politics and specifically, sentencing. Those opposed to mandatory minimums, primarily leftist leaning groups, are now trying to push their religious beliefs onto me in what should be an sensible argument outside religious instruction on the proper parameters of sentencing and the appropriate role for each branch of Government in establishing a punishment for a crime - not on what different denominations believe is the right sentence for a particular crime.

Posted by: Don | Sep 23, 2005 5:03:23 PM

Don, I'm afraid you're wrong here on almost all counts. First of all, the leading voice against mandatory minimum sentences, FAMM, is libertarian in its origins and political focus, not "leftist leaning." Second, I don't think anyone is opposed to religious groups or individuals exercising their First Amendment rights to participate fully and equally in public policy debates, particularly when they do so openly and candidly. (You may be confusing this right with the problem of public officials' abusing their power to impose their personal religious views rather than doing what is in the public interest. But that's another discussion.) A "sensible argument ... on the proper parameters of sentencing" is necessarily a debate about moral principles as well as about instrumental goals, as Beccaria irrefutably established nearly two and a half centuries ago. Finally, the moral and religious objection to mandatory minimums is not about "what different denominations believe is the right sentence for a particular crime." The reason so many denominations oppose mandatories is that MMs, by their nature, deny the unique individuality of each human person, including all those who have done wrong, and the entitlement to be treated as such not only by one's fellow humans but by the institutions of government as well. Note that this is the same moral/religious principle which makes racism and other prejudiced perspectives a sin.

Posted by: Peter G | Sep 23, 2005 10:58:27 PM

Peter, I could not have said it better
Mandatory Minimums adversely effect every
person involved.
They are a "once size fits all" knee-jerk
reaction based on vengence and not at all
on a desire for justice.
Thank you for your post......it is much

Posted by: karen | Sep 24, 2005 1:45:35 AM

It's funny that the left is always whining about the supposed influence of the "religious right" on politicians and policy, but is very happy to jump on the religion bandwagon when it can find some loony left group to advocate very specific policies as the only "moral" or "Christian" option.

In point of fact, there is nothing inherently immoral or unchristian about mandatory minimum sentences. Such practical details of how much punishment to mete out for particular crimes rarely rise to the level of a moral challenge-- e.g., if the state were to reinstitute the death penalty for theft one might challenge the morality of that, but a five year mandatory sentence for someone convicted of possessing a firearm while dealing drugs, for instance? One cannot reasonably assert that such mandatories are intrinsically contrary to reason and hence contrary to the virtue of justice and thus immoral.

No, when the left and the defense bar start advocating all the Church's formal, official positions (opposing abortion, for instance), then I'll take them seriously when they support the unofficial, merely prudential, non-binding social advocacy positions of some elements within the Church... like the ones at issue here.

Posted by: Tom McKenna | Sep 26, 2005 8:41:41 AM

I would just point out that sentencing guidelines was instituted on a bipartisan attempt to ensure that all folks regardless of race, creed, status are given the same sentencing taking racism, sexism, and wealth out of the equation. Well, I guess things haven't worked out. Mandatory minimums brings fairness to a system where Joe Blow in Minnesota doesn't get 18 years for a crime and John Smith in Florida gets 6 months, simply because the Judge has the "discretion" to do so. Perhaps, certain mandatory minimums may be too high, but is it not fair in every sense of the word. Inequality when it comes to deprivation of freedom is not something I wish to provide a judge. After all, he is still a human being, not some God-like wisdom in decision-making. I refuse to worship at the feet of federal judges.

Posted by: don | Sep 29, 2005 3:08:15 PM

What is the minimum sentence in the state of Mississippi for manufacturing methamphetamine

Posted by: stone | May 9, 2006 3:37:44 AM

MM is just a mandatory guide. Where to start. The judge does hae aome descretion. If the defendent cooperates and gives up information that can be used, then prior convictions come into the issue, and if the defendent had a gun on them, or if a crime was committeed by with a gun and so. These are all factors a judge can use to reach a fair and balanced sentence. The defendent can also lower his or her sentence when they volunteer and complete the drug program which is rigorous. It teaches individuals how to deal with stress, society, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and much more. A lot of the defendants are short of social skills. The program is excellent as far as any fed program goes. Also, I believe that religious groups are a plus in this situation. they are there for the good of ALL, not just the ones who believe as they do. You can be a Hindu, Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, or not believe at all and benefit from their input.

Posted by: Cherryl | Jul 27, 2007 4:41:41 PM

I am a mother and a grandmother. My dgtr is waiting to be sentenced for conspiring to sell and distribute meth. She is has cooperated, and has volunteered for the drug program. I am supporting her in all avenues. She used Meth to self medicate after having a baby at the age of 33. Her husband got her started but he didn't participate in any sales or etc. He now has custody of the child. I would love to discuss custody issues with someone.

I believe that any individual who is intellligent enough to understand the law, that you either follow the rules or there are consequences, does NOT have a right to complain unless the sentencing is radical in as compared to others of similar crimes.

AS much as I can find out about the drug program offered to inmates, and available for asking, it is a most important part of the sentencing. I want my daughter home, well AFTER she has paid the price for her bad choices. She wasn't raised this way. She married. I am dead set against illegal drugs. She had the opportunity to seek medical help and she chose to take the 'easy way' which has turned into the 'hard way'. I love my dgtr but I am thankful for her being stopped before she did herself mental and physical damage to the point she could never be part of society. For this I will for ever be thankful to the city, county, state, and federal authorities. Say what you want but it is about choices.

Posted by: Cherryl | Jul 27, 2007 4:51:45 PM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 9:30:13 PM

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