Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a powerful speech this morning in Washington. Here's what he said about mandatory sentencing laws:
"We also have to examine issues related to our high rate of imprisonment … and mandatory minimum sentences, to make sure that we have approaches that effectively reduce crime and target violent offenders. I say this as a former prosecutor and I say this as a chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I think our reliance on mandatory minimums at the state and federal level has been a great mistake. I’m not convinced it has lowered crime, but I [know] that we have imprisoned people who should not be there, and we have wasted money that is better spent on other things. I think at the federal level and at the state level, get rid of these mandatory minimum sentences. Let judges act as judges and make up their own mind [about] what should be done. The idea that we protect society by one-size-fits-all, or the idea that we can do this kind of symbolism to make us safer – it just does not work in the real world."Watch the whole speech (and interesting q-and-a after) on CSPAN. The comments on mandatory sentences occur about 10 minutes in.
We are big fans of Senator Leahy's comments and his firm stance against mandatory sentences. We are looking forward to working with him in this Congress and trying to do as he says, and get rid of these expensive, ineffective laws.