Mandatory Minimums are a Distraction

January 31, 2012

Is removing discretion from federal judges during the sentencing phase of a trial a good thing?  Some politicians believe it is and are working to enact new legislation that will work around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from a few years back that threw out mandatory sentencing rules.  If they are successful, judges will no longer have discretion on how long they sentence a person to, but will be required to sentence in accordance to strict rules called sentencing guidelines.

The federal judges did not used to have much say in how long they sentenced someone to prison after that person pled or was found guilty for  federal crime.  The sentencing guidelines were "non-discretionary."  All of that changed in 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court said the guidelines that judges followed were advisory, not mandatory.  The problem that some lawmakers are having with the current system is that some  courts are still following the guidelines, and some are not.  This means that your sentence can have more to do with where you are charged than what you are charged with.  

Congress set up a commission to investigate the discrepancies, and at least some lawmakers are now threatening to defund the commission if they do not advise Congress to reenact mandatory minimum sentencing.  The Commission has found that white defendants are receiving about twenty percent less time than black defendants, but most - if not all - of that is attributable, according to the Commission to the type of crimes that each class is charged with committing.  

Federal judges are among the most respected judges in the country.  They typically have a great deal of experience, and arrive at the bench after having proved themselves in a state court system.  There is a vigorous process that these judges must endure to get appointed.  They have to be nominated by the President and confirmed by Congress before they take office.  For politicians to say they have to remove discretion from this group of judges because we cannot trust they will make fair decisions is not only a smack in the face of logic and reason, but lacks the humanity and compassion that warm blooded creatures are supposed to have.

If Congress wants to do something to "right the wrongs" being done by federal officials they need to start by cleaning their own house.  Just because they cannot seem to get anything done within the walls of their building does not mean they need to start interfering with what is going on in everyone elses'.  This proposal to re-enact mandatory minimums may win some votes in this election year.  No politician has lost a race by championing getting "tough on crime."  But, it is just more needless nonsense from a bunch of people that won't tackle the issues they were elected to solve.  

What do you think?  Are mandatory minimums necessary, or are they a cheap political ploy to garner votes in an election year where politicians cannot run on what they've accomplished in the economy?

Mandatory Minimums are a Distraction

January 31, 2012

Is removing discretion from federal judges during the sentencing phase of a trial a good thing?  Some politicians believe it is and are working to enact new legislation that will work around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from a few years back that threw out mandatory sentencing rules.  If they are successful, judges will no longer have discretion on how long they sentence a person to, but will be required to sentence in accordance to strict rules called sentencing guidelines.

The federal judges did not used to have much say in how long they sentenced someone to prison after that person pled or was found guilty for  federal crime.  The sentencing guidelines were "non-discretionary."  All of that changed in 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court said the guidelines that judges followed were advisory, not mandatory.  The problem that some lawmakers are having with the current system is that some  courts are still following the guidelines, and some are not.  This means that your sentence can have more to do with where you are charged than what you are charged with.  

Congress set up a commission to investigate the discrepancies, and at least some lawmakers are now threatening to defund the commission if they do not advise Congress to reenact mandatory minimum sentencing.  The Commission has found that white defendants are receiving about twenty percent less time than black defendants, but most - if not all - of that is attributable, according to the Commission to the type of crimes that each class is charged with committing.  

Federal judges are among the most respected judges in the country.  They typically have a great deal of experience, and arrive at the bench after having proved themselves in a state court system.  There is a vigorous process that these judges must endure to get appointed.  They have to be nominated by the President and confirmed by Congress before they take office.  For politicians to say they have to remove discretion from this group of judges because we cannot trust they will make fair decisions is not only a smack in the face of logic and reason, but lacks the humanity and compassion that warm blooded creatures are supposed to have.

If Congress wants to do something to "right the wrongs" being done by federal officials they need to start by cleaning their own house.  Just because they cannot seem to get anything done within the walls of their building does not mean they need to start interfering with what is going on in everyone elses'.  This proposal to re-enact mandatory minimums may win some votes in this election year.  No politician has lost a race by championing getting "tough on crime."  But, it is just more needless nonsense from a bunch of people that won't tackle the issues they were elected to solve.  

What do you think?  Are mandatory minimums necessary, or are they a cheap political ploy to garner votes in an election year where politicians cannot run on what they've accomplished in the economy?