Wednesday March 12, 2014
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A Supreme Court case has brought up a question which has been asked many times:
Should we have mandatory sentences?
The Supreme Court case covers only mandatory life sentences for those under 18. The Court only ruled on those sentences, saying that for those under 18 judges must consider a defendant’s youth and the nature of the crime before sentencing the defendant to imprisonment with no hope of parole.
The more general question we are asking today greatly enlarges the issue, but it is one which cries out for an answer.
Many people ask why sentencing should not be left up to the judge and jury, who are, they say, far more aware of the nature of the crime, the circumstances under which it was committed, and the many other factors which arise in a case?
Why, they ask, could there not be a set of general guidelines instead of mandatory sentences?
Some people oppose mandatory sentencing, saying that:
Some laws are written by legislators to garner votes by looking hard on crime.
Some laws are an overemotional reaction to some heinous crime which has gathered headlines.
The result of some sentencing laws is that the penalty for a minor crime is worse than the penalty for a major crime.
Too much lobbying for mandatory sentences comes from private prisons in the form of campaign contributions.
How do you feel about it?
What is the right course for us to steer?
Should we stay with mandatory sentencing, or should we establish reasonable guidelines and let judges and juries decide the specific sentence in each case?
I just read another article. It points out that the reason for private prisons was supposed to be that they cost less, but the truth is that they are now costing more. That, taken along with the fact that we have lobbyists interfering with our state government by donating campaign money to legislators who are willing to pass bills that may or may not be in the public interest.
Remember, private prisons get paid PER WARM BODY.
What you may not know is that the companies that run private prisons are not just local; they are vast corporations which may billions of dollars and have the financial clout to cause large changes in our laws.
The Washington times says: "Modern day private prisons sprang up in the United States in the 1980’s quickly learning that lobbying politicians, and making huge campaign contributions, were the keys to staggering financial success. These private prison companies promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration and, therefore, greater profits. They influence and even help draft legislation around the country, such as the “three-strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws that send more people to jail."
Proof? Just look at these numbers:
"The two largest private prison companies alone, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, Inc. had revenues of $3 billion in 2010. During the last decade private prisons spent $45 million lobbying and making campaign contributions seeking to increase sentences and incarcerate more people."
That's a racket. When a company influences legislators to pass laws that cost us millions, or even billions, of dollars that is just plain racketeering.
And the conditions in those prisons? We should be ashamed of ourselves that we treat people like this. Read these two quotes:
"Auditors visiting a private prison in Texas reported that they “got so much s--t on their shoes they had to wipe their feet on the grass outside.” The prisoners were literally living in their own (bleep).
All for money, and all supported by laws that put people in prison for long terms regardless of what judge and jury might decide if they had a chance to make the decision.
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