Push for Sentence Reform and the Push Back

It is heartening to see Congress discussing the failure of mandatory minimum laws and to witness the unlikely allies in this struggle for justice and appropriate sentencing. When a system forgets that it involves people, it is time for us to stand up. We have to shut off the intake valve of the criminal injustice system. Sentencing is crucial, as is oversight of the prosecutors’ offices since they bring  the charges.  So two articles from National Public Radio (NPR) follow one highlighting the need for reform and the about the prosecutor’s opposition to reform.

World Prison Population List – underscoring the need for reform. The US is way out of whack with the rest of the world when it comes to people caught in the criminal justice web.

How Long Is Too Long? Congress Revisits Mandatory Sentences Liz Halloran, NPR, January 9, 2014 ap143810120042_wide-4ba3d18df59a28b6e27896b0847cc12ccbeddc04-s40-c85Excerpt: “Mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug dealers were once viewed as powerful levers in the nation’s war against drugs, a way to target traffickers, and punish kingpins and masterminds. “But Congress, which approved the requirements in 1986 when crack-fueled crime gripped America’s big cities, is now grappling with a present-day, lower-crime reality: Have the mandatory sentences put the wrong sort of offenders in prison, for too long, and at too high a cost for the nation to bear — both literally and figuratively? “Those questions are expected to be addressed in a comprehensive Senate bill being hammered out in negotiations driven by a seemingly unlikely alliance. “How unlikely? Among those driving the conversation are Tea Party Republicans like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, and liberal Democrats including Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont.”

States Push For Prison Sentence Overhaul; Prosecutors Push Back Martin Kaste, NPR, July 9, 2014 Excerpt: “Some red states like Louisiana and Texas have emerged as leaders in a new movement: to divert offenders from prisons and into drug treatment, work release and other incarceration alternatives. “By most counts, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent years, sentencing reformers in the capital, Baton Rouge, have loosened some mandatory minimum sentences and have made parole slightly easier for offenders to get. “But as reformers in Louisiana push for change, they’re also running into stiffening resistance — especially from local prosecutors.”

Mahalo for caring about justice for all people.  This is not an easy thing to do. It takes commitment and love to bring about change. We must be the change we want to see. We must reflect the justice for which we struggle.

Mahalo for those who raise your voices for peace and justice.

Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

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