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December 16, 2014

Notable NPR coverage of the "Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing"

Download (3)I am pleased and intrigued to see that National Public Radio seems to be starting a deep dive into some of the personal stories surrounding the debate over federal mandatory minimum.  This introduction, headlined "From Judges To Inmates, Finding The Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing," sets up the discussion this way:

This year, everyone from Attorney General Eric Holder to Tea Party Republicans in Congress has argued those stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences do more harm than good for thousands of drug offenders. Legislation to cut the tough-on-crime penalties has stalled on Capitol Hill, but it's likely to be reintroduced in 2015. Meanwhile, the White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency. That effort, known as Clemency Project 2014, is moving slowly.

Amid the backdrop of debate inside Washington and across the country, NPR decided to focus on the human toll of these mandatory prison sentences. We talked with judges who expressed tearful misgivings about sending people away for the rest of their lives for crimes that involved no violence and a modest amount of drugs. We found a newly-released inmate trying to reacquaint herself with her community in the Florida panhandle and rebuild ties with her grieving children after 17 years away from home. And we went inside a medium-security prison in New Jersey to find a lifer who says he deserves another chance. These people acknowledge they broke the law and accept the need for punishment. But they say their decades-long incarcerations cast a shadow that lingers over their families, damage that far outweighs the wrongs they did to put them in prison.

The series' first lengthy piece here is titled "Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences," has lots of good content and quotes from Judge John Gleeson and Professors Rachel Barkow and Bill Otis.

December 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Permalink


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How about the human casualty of 6 million violent crimes a year? Not a word from these pro-criminal big government advocates.

How about the human casualty of the prohibition of marijuana, which 1/10,000 as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco, but generates $billions in lawyer rent.

How about the human casualty of the destruction of the patriarchal Black family, with the end of the white family coming next?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 16, 2014 2:32:37 PM

Having spent 8 years in 10 different Federal prisons myself (between 2000 and 2008), I have seen the human toll of harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and it is mean, ugly and unnecessary. One case stands out in particular. I met a young (23 years old) black man from D.C. at USP - Big Sandy, in Inez, Kentucky. He had received a mandatory life sentences pursuant to 21 U.S. Code section 851 at age 21. The total amount of drugs involved in the crimes that got him a life sentence was 8 ounces of marijuana and 3 grams of cocaine. It seems absurd to me that these crimes resulted in a life sentence for such a young man. He could live more than 50 years in prison at a cost to taxpayers of more than $45,000 per year. The taxpayers could pay for a Ph.D. from Harvard and a nice house for him for the same amount of money. Just absure and a waste of a human life.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Dec 16, 2014 3:29:32 PM

Jim: A thought experiment for you. Young man with those amounts is likely part of an organization. Did you ever ask him how many people he killed as part of his job description? If not, we do not know if violent or not.

You want to sell marijuana and cocaine on his block. What happens?

You are on your knees about to get a cap in your ass. Offer him a scholarship to Harvard Law School.

The murder rate in DC was so high, the police did not bother investigating anymore that much. By the time they found the guy responsible, he would have been murdered himself. Demoralizing after a lot of work.

The main reason for the surge in murder was drug dealer competition. Drug sales, quite violent. Good investment for the taxpayer if the pro-criminal lawyer will not allow his cheap and far safer summary execution.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 17, 2014 1:44:38 AM

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