Friday, January 20, 2012

Good and Mad Reading for the Weekend: Virginia Edition

Virginia lawmakers are off to the races to create new mandatory minimum sentences. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the skinny on proposed new mandatory minimums for drugs, drunken driving, and sex offenses:
[L]egislation carried by Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, (House Bill 968) and Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, (Senate Bill 159) would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for second-time drug traffickers (excluding marijuana) who have been convicted of a violent felony and 10 years for third-time offenders.
Currently, there is no mandatory minimum incarceration for a second offense and the minimum for a third is five years. ...
Bell and Obenshain also are carrying a proposal backed by McDonnell to impose a mandatory minimum life sentence for rape, forcible sodomy and object sexual penetration of a child under age 13. ...
Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, is carrying House Bill 49, which would establish a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for involuntary manslaughter resulting from a DUI and a mandatory five-year minimum for aggravated involuntary manslaughter from a DUI.
We give two-thumbs down to this proposal. Mandatory minimum sentences are expensive (the governor has already added millions to the state budget proposal to cover the new ones he wants), unjust, and less effective than cheaper alternatives like drug courts.  Mandatory sentences also help pack prisons.

This is the problem with getting "tough on crime" -- "tough" never seems to be tough enough.  The result is a one-way ratcheting of sentences higher and higher -- at taxpayer expense.