It is not often these days that I am amble to write about something that excites me – that is, something that excites me in a positive way. Fortunately, I have been moved to do so of late, and have picked up the metaphorical blogging pen, after an extended summer hiatus, for want of one particular issue.
Is it the conflict in Syria, an example of grotesque human cruelty? No. I am immensely skeptical of the effort on our (America’s) part to intervene, and I am equally skeptical of any argument invoking a moral imperative. But I am even more skeptical of my own ability to understand the situation fully. Though certainly important and of-the-moment, foreign policy and particularly the Middle East has never been my area of knowledge or interest. I am more interested in the war at home, in which a significant blow was struck for the good guys recently, a blow I sincerely hope is the beginning of a very long-overdue reformation that will correct a glaring error and gross injustice in our legal system, and in so doing be remembered as a turning of the punitive tide in the war on drugs.
I am speaking, of course, about mandatory minimums.
The Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday, noting the nation is “coldly efficient in jailing criminals,” but that it “cannot prosecute or incarcerate” its way to becoming safer.
“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason,” Holder told the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates in San Francisco.
Everyone who pays attention to the news has heard already that Attorney General Eric Holder has instituted new Justice Department policy that takes a much more nuanced step on crime and punishment than mandatory minimums are designed to allow.
One of the most Draconian tools implemented in the colossal waste of time, energy, money, and humanity known collectively as the War on Drugs has been the mandatory minimum sentencing laws passed by Congress in the late 80’s. Short of repealing the laws, the act of correcting them and, frankly, stripping them of many provisions, would be a quantum leap toward putting the “justice” back in Justice System. (If, perhaps, you haven’t seen a crime/law/drug war documentary in the past couple decades and you need a refresher on the horrifying punishments born of the mandatory minimum era, go here.)
This would all be one thing if the MM laws were shown to produce a precipitous drop in the crime rate that is in any way close to a correlating with the social, economic, and human burden born by the rest of us. That would still be very troubling, but perhaps stomach-able (though I wouldn’t bet the farm). But, lo and behold, like its progenitor the Drug War, it has been ineffective at producing results.