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Comments about ‘In our opinion: Roll back mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges to measure out punishment’

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Published: Thursday, March 27 2014 6:21 a.m. MDT

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GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

Wow, this is so refreshing! Deseret News is actually advocating something that makes good sense.

Of course we should do away with most of those minimum sentencing requirements. They don't benefit anyone unless you happen to work within the judicial-penal-industrial complex or hold stock in a company that operates prisons.

Even with the loss of those prisoners, it's not likely the United States will lose its position of preeminence as the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

States should also take a close look at their criminal justice system, and perhaps focus more on offering social programs that can help prevent crime.

Many businesses, especially major corporations, freely borrow ideas from other businesses and even other industries in their eternal quest for greater efficiency and continual improvement. It's called implementing best practices. Governments can and should do that to.

Sure, the US may be the greatest nation in the world, but we can improve. Why not look at our next door neighbor Canada, and see what they're doing right. They have a much lower incarceration rate and lower crime rates in every major category as well.

FatherOfFour
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT

And reform the indeterminate sentencing in Utah, and incorporate dual-mode sentencing. BOPP's sentencing is the very definition of arbitrary, without any kinds of standards.

averageguy
WASHINGTON, UT

This article is right on spot. Justice must be just. There is no way justice can be done by giving all power to a prosecutor.

Mikhail
ALPINE, UT

While there are always exceptions to the general rule, most judges understand the specifics of a case better than a handbook with specific sentences for specific crimes. The system would be better served to allow Federal judges more discretion in sentencing individuals. I believe that most judges would agree that they should have more discretion. The punishment needs to fit the crime to betterment the needs of society to see that justice is done.

Jared from CT
SOUTHBURY, CT

I agree, except that there must be a review process. There have been too many instances when judges have imposed sentences that are either way too lenient or way too harsh. Both the prosecution and defense should be able to appeal a sentence to a panel of judges. This would be different, and a much quicker and less expensive process, than appealing the verdict. The only 3 people present before the panel of judges would be the sentencing judge, the lead prosecutor and the lead defense attorney. Each (including the sentencing judge) would have X minutes to present their case for keeping, decreasing, or increasing the sentence. The panel of judges would then have X minutes to ask questions, then X minutes to confer, following which they'll deliver a binding, ultimate decision.

Hutterite
American Fork, UT

I'm surprised where the DN is on this issue.

CHS 85
Sandy, UT

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which defined mandatory minimum sentences was signed into law by which American President?

A. Ronald Reagan
B. Ronald Reagan
C. Ronald Reagan
D. All of the Above

"This legislation is not intended as a means of filling our jails with drug users." - October 27, 1986.

No offense to the Reagan-Republicans out there, but if his goal was not intended to fill jails with drug users - he FAILED miserably.

SCfan
clearfield, UT

CHS 85

At least Reagan tried to do something about the drug crime in America. I didn't notice any Democrat President like Clinton or any Democrat controlled Congress doing much to change it after it didn't work. They FAILED more miserably because if something is not working, it needs to be changed. Kind of like Obamacare needs about a 90% overhaul. And, mandatory sentances would never have been needed if judges didn't do things like give very light sentences to child molesters and such. Liberal judges are why the American people wanted legislatures to pass these laws in the first place. Liberalism once again rears its damaging head. Live with it GaryO and others. It's all your fault.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

What is the reason/logic for reducing the sentences?

Are the penalties too high? If they are too high, you would think it would discourage people from doing it. Are less people doing it?

I would be for reducing mandatory sentences for these drug crimes IF people were learning that this is not acceptable (the reception of that message would be indicated by less people doing it).

I would not be for reducing the mandatory sentences if the number of people doing it is increasing. That would indicate that society is giving up and the drug users won. I don't think we should give up. I think they should give up drugs.

===

If society has decide we don't care if people do drugs... I can be convinced to go along with that. I think people should be able to make and be responsible for their own decisions (even bad ones). But if society is going to pick up the pieces when someone does drugs... we have a stake in that problem and need to be able to help change the bad behavior. They won't just do it on their own (ask ANY drug user).

GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

Hey SCfan - "At least Reagan tried to do something about the drug crime in America."

Yes, he sure did. His administration contributed to drug crime in America by facilitating the shipment of tons of cocaine into inner American cities at the beginning of the Crack Cocaine scourge.

That's right. While Nancy Reagan was telling kids to "Just say NO" to drugs, Ronnie's boys were busily dreaming up all kinds of ways to fund the Contra guerrilla's (a vicious band of murdering rapists made up mostly of Somosa's former soldiers) to fight the Sandanista's in Nicaragua.

Ingenious means of funding included arming our Iranian enemies to the teeth and selling cocaine to Americans, thus addicting thousands and causing the devolution of inner city America. And nobody really knows how much of that dirty money was actually used in arming the Contras.

Of course, Reagan repeatedly claimed "I have no memory of that," and he probably wasn't lying, since Alzheimer's was steadily eating at his brain.

But face it. The Reagan administration could well be the worst thing that ever happened to America.

It's no wonder that modern "Conservatives" idolize Ronald Reagan.

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

GaryO Virginia Beach, VA,
Wait a minute. You or Open Minded Mormon need to get your message straight.

OMM told us Ronald Reagan would be thrown out by today's Conservatives, and that only he likes Reagan (Conservatives do not like Reagan, only liberals like Reagan). Now you tell us "modern Conservatives idolize Ronald Reagan".

Well... which is it? Do we idolize him? Or would we throw him out? Since you can judge us and know what we would do... decide which it would be. It can't be both.

I just want to know... can I like Reagan, or not? I'm confused...

David
Centerville, UT

I agree with this article. But I don't believe it is stock-holders in prison's (are there such stocks?) that are driving arrests. That seems fairly far-fetched and outlandish.

Rather, it is more sinister. I believe it is politicians who have found a winning formula when it comes to campaigns and the criminal justice system: be tough on crime to win elections.

Judges should be free to sentence according to the facts and nature of the offense before them. I dislike the idea of minimum sentencing requirements.

GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA

2 bits - “I'm confused...” Of course you are.

OMM has his own opinions. We’re not joined at the hip.

You don’t have to ask me whether to like Reagan. The Great Right Wing Hive Mind will make that choice for you, . . . as usual.

And the Great Right Wing Hive Mind says Reagan was the savior of the planet and is the very model of “Conservatism.”

But OMM does have valid points. If you look at the reasonable things Reagan accomplished (he did a few things right although they are outliers and not indicative of the Reagan administration), those actions may have made Reagan unelectable today.

Reducing our nuclear arsenal for example. That’s just crazy. How can we threaten to destroy Russia, South Korea, and Iran fifty time times over, if we only have enough nukes to destroy them 10 times over?

And Reagan very quickly responded to the ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere by eliminating the production of Chlorofluorocarbons. These days, Tea Partiers would fight such silly, Liberal precautions to the bitter end, and no Republican politician would dare argue for sanity.

Utefan60
Salt Lake City, UT

I was the Church leader for a fine young man who went astray after his LDS Mission and got involved in drug issues. He was sentenced to a mandatory 10 year sentence here in Utah. The prosecutor had no choice. Later she told me that he should never have gone to prison. He should have had probation and supervised therapy. She was sick this happened but had no choice.

Luckily he has a good group of people that support him and try to keep him up on the outside world. But this mandatory sentence did nothing to solve his problem and forced a burden on the taxpayers of this state.

It was a sad experience for the bad choice he made. But he should have been able to reform and repent without being placed in an environment that even the prosecutor said he shouldn't be in!

Stable thought
FORT MORGAN, CO

Don't get to ahead of yourselves...did you forget why mandatory sentencing became popular, our crime rate was out of control and Judges and District attorney's were letting criminals off with a slap on the wrist, just to go out and victimize someone again (that means it could be you or a member of your family). Bringing some common sense in to certain mandatory sentencing and certain crimes is one thing. Be careful what you wish for.

Fred44
Salt Lake City, Utah

2 bits,

The answer to your question is both. Today's far right idolize Reagan, but would throw him out. Meaning, very simply that you make Reagan into something he wasn't so that you feel good idolizing him. The real Reagan was way to moderate, way to willing to compromise for the current group of far right republicans that control the party.

Brer Rabbit
Spanish Fork, UT

It is easy after 30 years to forget why mandatory sentencing became necessary. Judges were giving lenient sentences, with nothing more than a sob story and a promise of rehabilitation. Perhaps mandatory sentencing needs to be looked at again, but not ended. Judges today are likely to be just as lenient and giving a slap on the wrist as they were 30 years ago.

I spent 2 years in the Utah State Prison, as a volunteer, and many of the inmates that I met were back in 3 or more times for drug related offences. Often their crimes were committed against the public in general, but more often they were selling. Rehabilitation for drug offences more often than not is ineffective, because they are also users. It is terrible the grip illegal drugs have on some people.

I think that this article is more about federal sentencing than Utah sentencing guide lines. In addition there is no parole in federal prison, while there is parole for most Utah crimes. Many on parole end up back in prison before their parole is finished on new drug charges.

one vote
Salt Lake City, UT

These draconian sentencing provisions were the result of the Republican majority in the early Bush Administration. Now they are left with Iraq war and he great recession as their legacy.

GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMeDeath
searcy, AR

Ok this article is spot on, BUT I think the system needs to go another step further. Right Now in America, if you are convicted of a felony and lets be clear here, a felony can be something as simple as burning your trash, all the way to Murder or Rape.

If you are a Felon and you do get out of Jail or were never in Jail, YOU are still being punished for the rest of your life. HOW may you ask. Well 1 way is that you can't get a decent job that pays above min. wage and most of the time you can not even get that min. wage job. NO Matter how minor the crime or the fact that you have not committed a crime before or since or even the fact that you had no idea you were committing a crime to begin with, You are forever PUNISHED. How is this right? I feel that if a person has not committed but the 1 crime, that after they have completed the jail or probation period that the crime should be sealed and all rights restored to the individual.

GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMeDeath
searcy, AR

I understand that if it child abuse, or Murder or Rape that these things deserve the individual to be watched a lot closer, but if they can not get a job, how are they going to do better? The system seems to want them to commit crimes over and over just to live. I understand that you can get expunged, but the expungement cost money and if they can not get a job, how can they get expunged. there should be a way to do this.

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