Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Message is Getting Out There!


We're getting the message out there, and more and more people are agreeing with us:  mandatory minimum sentences have got to go.

First, this New York Times editorial calls for the reform of mandatory minimum sentences!  
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. recently said that his top priority is to improve the criminal justice system. He can start by pushing Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission to fix the unfair problem of excessive mandatory minimum sentences.
Second, check out FAMM President Julie Stewart's Chicago Tribune argument that Illinois should not embrace more mandatory minimums to deal with gun violence.  Mandatory sentences are usually created in the wake of high-profile crimes, with lots of fear and little research -- at huge cost (and little profit) to taxpayers:
Twenty-seven years ago, a young African-American basketball star named Len Bias was drafted by the Boston Celtics, went out to celebrate, overdosed on cocaine and died. Bias’s death was the tipping point for lawmakers who had been struggling to deal with what was being called the crack epidemic. Within two months, Congress hastily adopted new laws to impose stiff prison sentences on crack cocaine possession and selling. There were no hearings or debates. No expert testimony was solicited, no alternatives were considered. The law hurtled through Congress driven by the raw emotion of losing such a promising young man and “fixing” the growing crack cocaine problem.
Len Bias’s death did not mark the first or last time lawmakers seized on a high-profile crime to rush through an ill-considered legislative response, but it is worth recalling as Chicago and Illinois leaders consider new gun laws. One family’s unspeakable tragedy was used to create misery for tens of thousands of others families. ...
The lesson for Illinois state leaders is obvious. All of us want to figure out how we can prevent the bright lights of the next generation, like Hadiya Pendleton, from falling victim to senseless gun violence. We all want violent criminals to be sent away where they cannot harm our children and communities. But introducing new mandatory gun sentences is not the answer.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting in December 2012 and the Chicago gun violence, lawmakers should not hurry to pass harsher and harsher gun laws.  For one thing, they're already too harsh.  For another thing, we don't need yet another bunch of poorly-thought-out mandatory sentences that will fill prisons and cost taxpayers millions with little to no benefit to show for it.

Third, check out Molly Gill's arguments about the down-sides of snitching and the solution:  abolish mandatory minimums.  And while you're at that site, check out all of the news, features, and online petition you can sign to help end mandatory minimum sentencing laws, all tied in to this Friday's release of the new film "Snitch."

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