15 truths about our criminal justice system that you won't learn from tv
As to why nearly every criminal statute in America is written so broadly that it can be egregiously misused in this way, the answer is simple: politicians enact criminal statutes, and voters’ limited understanding of the criminal justice system means that at the polls they nearly always reward whoever endorses the broadest and most draconian laws. How else to keep our communities safe from the ever-present scourge of violent crime, even when violent offenses are decreasing in number?
By the time you or a loved one of yours has been caught in the trap of an overbroad criminal statute with an outrageous series of penalties attached—often mandatory ones that even an independent-minded judge cannot contravene—it is too late to get wise to how obtuse, inflexible, and nonsensical most of our criminal statutes are. While the U.S. Sentencing Commission recently announced that it would revisit mandatory minimum sentences, there is little hope of repairing the devastation such sentences have already caused. Nor is there much reason for confidence that any proposed changes will stem the tide of injustice. While Attorney General Eric Holder’s August 12th announcement that mandatory minimum sentences will no longer be sought for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders is a good start, the fact that sentencing guidelines remain a largely political calculation means that the next presidential administration may well undo whatever progress Holder’s Department of Justice makes this year.
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