“Mandatory Sentences Breed Injustice.”

The New York Times has a sad article about the costs of mandatory sentencing, beginning with the case of Stephanie George.

George was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Everyone agrees that, at best, she was a bit player joined to the distribution by the behavior of her child’s father. So how did she end up with a life senten…

  1. EJHill

    It’s a vicious cycle isn’t it? Liberal doesn’t do job citing socio-economic justice. Politicians try to fix. Cure almost as bad as problem. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Ad Naseum.

    Light sentancing begets mandatory sentances.

    Grads who can’t read begets state testing.

    If everyone just did what was expected from them in the first place…

  2. jarhead
    C

    For every good judge with as much common sense as Judge Vinson, there are also judges who have no common sense and where mandatory sentences don’t exist, so criminals get a slap on the hand and go free.   Unfortunately, common sense amongst judges and legislators isn’t very common.

  3. Barkha Herman

    Perhaps all problems don’t need to be fixed – such as under sentencing?  The way to fix issues like under sentencing is to replace the Judges that under sentence  not by forcing more punishment.

  4. Valiuth

    All of this would be solved if instead of giving out prison sentences we simply instituted a system of corporal punishment for non-violent crimes, such as possession and distribution of narcotics. Sending people to jail is costly and there is very little I have seen in the way of evidence that you are rehabilitating these people.

    Once people go to jail they also loose any legitimate jobs they may have had, and their legitimate job skills wane. Thus once released they are less able to obtain gainful employment. 

    Caning a criminal 20 times imposes a very harsh and easily repeatable punishment, that does not in any way remove the offender from society. If the punishment is public too, it can add a much needed element of shame. The sentence will take only 30 minutes to execute and the total cost will be what ever the hourly wages of those employed to carry out the sentence. I think this would also be very effective in the case of juvenile offenders. 

  5. PJ
    Barkha Herman: Perhaps all problems don’t need to be fixed – such as under sentencing?  The way to fix issues like under sentencing is to replace the Judges that under sentence  not by forcing more punishment. · 10 minutes ago

    Mandatory sentences were a response to a crime problem that many folks today can’t appreciate.  I promise you that you do not want to go back to the old days on this one. 

    Also keep in mind that Federal judges, at least, have life tenure. You can’t just replace them if you think they’re not giving out harsh enough sentences.

    If there’s a way to tweak the laws to reduce these kinds of injustices, I’d be open to suggestions, but as a general matter, my response to the headline of Mollie’s post is:  “But not as much as under-sentencing.” 

  6. Barkha Herman
    Valiuth: All of this would be solved if instead of giving out prison sentences we simply instituted a system of corporal punishment for non-violent crimes, such as possession and distribution of narcotics. Sending people to jail is costly and there is very little I have seen in the way of evidence that you are rehabilitating these people.

    How would unjustly mandatory caning be better than unjustly mandatory detention?

    This would also go away if drugs were legalized.

    The punishment and the crime are irrelevant in this discussion (though not in general).  The point is the injustice of mandatory sentencing.

  7. Butters

    Or just stop criminalizing private activity between consenting adults, like prostitution and drug sales.

    Imagine if law enforcement could just focus on violence/theft/fraud. We’re fine with mandatory sentencing for those sorts of things.

     She’s in prison for giving other people something they want. How does that make sense?

  8. Barkha Herman
    PJ

    Also keep in mind that Federal judges, at least, have life tenure. You can’t just replace them if you think they’re not giving out harsh enough sentences.Mandatory sentences were a response to a crime problem that many folks today can’t appreciate.  I promise you that you do not want to go back to the old days on this one. 

    If there’s a way to tweak the laws to reduce these kinds of injustices, I’d be open to suggestions, but as a general matter, my response to the headline of Mollie’s post is:  “But not as much as under-sentencing.”  · 5 minutes ago

    Edited 2 minutes ago

    PJ – I will take my chances over your word, thank you.

    Whatever happened to letting 100 guilty people go free over incarcerating one innocent person?

    Given the choose, I choose liberty over “safety”.

  9. Trace

    The real story behind mandatory sentencing is the influence of the public sector unions. It is in fact a case study that should be used more often as it confounds the typical liberal who is typically anti-prison and pro-union. 

    It’s not at all clear that sentencing drove down crimes rates as other anti-crime initiatives are also present in the data. Nor is the long term effect on crime of hardening that many more citizens who receive a superb post-secondary education is sociopathy while institutionalized.

  10. Barkha Herman
    Trace: The real story behind mandatory sentencing is the influence of the public sector unions. 

    Trace – I admit I am completely ignorant to this relationship.  Can you elaborate?

  11. C. U. Douglas
    Trace: The real story behind mandatory sentencing is the influence of the public sector unions. It is in fact a case study that should be used more often as it confounds the typical liberal who is typically anti-prison and pro-union. 

    It’s not at all clear that sentencing drove down crimes rates as other anti-crime initiatives are also present in the data. Nor is the long term effect on crime of hardening that many more citizens who receive a superb post-secondary education is sociopathy while institutionalized. · 27 minutes ago

    I’m in the same boat as Barkha.  It’s a fascinating point, but I would like to see some back-up on that before I repeat it to my progressive friends.

  12. Trace

    Hi Barkha — The prison guard unions have pushed most of the mandatory sentencing laws and in the process consolidated and increased their power over any revision to the status quo. The infamous three strikes law in California is a perfect case in point. This has of course resulted in massive amounts of prison construction and massive hiring of prison guards. A decent breakdown of the dilemma is available here.

    Prison-Population.jpg

    This is a very substantial contributor to the bankrupting of the state and in this conundrum they have both the left and the right tied in knots. We have schools that look like prisons and prisons that look like schools and massive public sector unions with massive pensions presiding over both.

  13. C. U. Douglas

    Thanks!  That’s what I need.

  14. Trace

    And to be perfectly fair, there is also a healthy dose of crony capitalism emerging in the mix as well as private prison companies are taking an increasing share of the pie.

  15. Barkha Herman

    We imprison more people than China, despite them having 1 billion more citizens than us.  How’s that for statistics?

  16. DocJay

    The laws are made to keep the man down!

  17. Barkha Herman
    DocJay: The laws are made to keep the man down! · 7 minutes ago

    Or woman in this case…

  18. Valiuth
    Barkha Herman

    Valiuth: All of this would be solved if instead of giving out prison sentences we simply instituted a system of corporal punishment for non-violent crimes, such as possession and distribution of narcotics. Sending people to jail is costly and there is very little I have seen in the way of evidence that you are rehabilitating these people.

    How would unjustly mandatory caning be better than unjustly mandatory detention?

    This would also go away if drugs were legalized.

    The punishment and the crime are irrelevant in this discussion (though not in general).  The point is the injustice of mandatory sentencing. · 1 hour ago

    I disagree.

    The long term consequences of caning are fewer than jail. So even if you are unfair with it there will be less damage done. Do you think this woman will become a repeat offender ? One afternoon of caning and she is done and free. She made a terrible mistake and she only pays for it once with caning. She can then move on and sin no more. 

    We can always paralyze ourselves with matters of what is just, but the law exists to create order more than it does to give us justice. 

  19. Valiuth
    Barkha Herman: We imprison more people than China, despite them having 1 billion more citizens than us.  How’s that for statistics? · 11 minutes ago

    China executes more people than us. Is that better? 

  20. Trace

    The laws are made to keep the union dues up!

    DocJay: The laws are made to keep the man down! · 13 minutes ago

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