Photo of the day

Favorite Christmas morning photo from yesterday.  Evan with the ornament he made for his mom on his shoulder:

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Broken Clock

George Will nails it on the gross injustice of our nation’s mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.  This so has to change.  I know politicians are super-fearful of not being “tough on crime” but I think that this is the rare instance where the public might be out ahead.  Not only is it morally wrong-headed to lock somebody up for decades for simply selling a psychoactive substance the government deems harmful (but is often no worse than alcohol) it is just horribly stupid an inefficient policy.  Ugh.  Will’s conclusion (I’ve included his last of many dismaying examples):

Kenneth Harvey was 24 in 1989 when he committed a crack cocaine offense. He had two prior offenses that qualified as felony drug convictions even though they were not deemed serious enough for imprisonment. They, however, enabled the government to make an 851 filing. He will die in prison. Harvey is 48.

Thousands of prisoners are serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes. Gleeson, who is neither naive nor sentimental (as a prosecutor, he sent mobster John Gotti to die in a supermax prison), knows that most defendants who plead guilty are guilty. He is, however, dismayed at the use of the threat of mandatory minimums as “sledgehammers” to extort guilty pleas, effectively vitiating the right to a trial. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions are without trials, sparing the government the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Mere probable cause, and the meager presentation required for a grand jury indictment, suffices. “Judging is removed,” Gleeson says, “prosecutors become sentencers.” And when threats of draconian sentences compel guilty pleas, “some innocent people will plead guilty.”

Barack ObamaAttorney General Eric Holder and Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are questioning the regime of mandatory minimum sentences, including recidivism enhancements, that began with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Meanwhile, the human and financial costs of mass incarceration mount.

 

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