Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Well, wonder of wonders, the Supreme Court finally got somethign right! On Monday they handed down a decision holding that the federal sentencing guidelines were just that--guidelines--and not mandatory. The cases at issue were two cases in which Judges in drug cases had sentenced defendants to less than the guidelines called for. In each case the Judge had good reason for doing so, yet the Court of Appeals overturned each decision, feeling the guidelines were mandatory.

One problem with the guidelines is that they are blatantly racist in their application. It takes 50-100 times the quantity of powder cocaine (favored by White middle class users) to result in an equivalent sentence for use of crack cocaine (favored by Blacks). This was the reason behind the Judge's thinking in one of the 2 cases. Still, the Judge had to impose the 15-year mandatory minimum set by Congress, which raises another issue of the unfairness of these mandatory minimums which legislatures are so fond of imposing to limit the discretion of Judges to do the right thing in a particular case.

Kudos to the two Judges who had the courage to do the right thing, and to the Supreme Court. Boos and hisses to the morons on the Court of Appeals. And let's pray for wisdom for the members of the Sentencing Commission, which is now meeting to consider a revision in these horrible and draconian guidelines.

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